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UA Hillel students active in MitzVote, a national, nonpartisan get-out-the-vote effort

ua-hillel-oct2020During the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation’s Shabbat meal pick-up on Oct. 9, student MitzVote ambassadors, from left, Rachel Kaplan, Lauren Bander, and Sarah Schneider, hand out MitzVote swag to encourage voter registration and early voting in the U.S. elections. (Photo: Abbii Cook/University of Arizona Hillel Foundation)

Three University of Arizona students are volunteering with Hillel International’s nonpartisan MitzVote program, which encourages and enables college and university students to vote in the national elections.

Rachel Kaplan, Lauren Bander, and Sarah Schneider are working with UA Hillel Assistant Director Abbii Cook on the project.

All three of the UArizona student MitzVote ambassadors are political science majors, Cook says, “so it fits in really well with what they’re learning and what they’re passionate about.”

“We’re living in a COVID world, so things are very different” from 2018, when Hillel International launched MitzVote. “Normally they’d be tabling on the mall, and meeting with students in person, and holding events, but that’s not possible right now,” Cook says. Instead, the three recently held a virtual tabling event, where students were able to stop by on Zoom to ask about registering to vote, or using Hillel’s customized TurboVote tool, which walks student voters through all the steps, from registration to creating a voting plan.

“The really great thing about that,” Cook explains, “is because we’re a college campus, we’re dealing with students who are registered to vote in a number of different states, and so we don’t have to be proficient on what the rules are [state by state]. The website provides all of that, so no matter where you’re registered to vote, you’re getting the accurate information and reminders.”

The students also set up information tables during UA Hillel’s Shabbat meal pick-ups on Oct. 9 and 16, Cook says, to talk to students “at appropriate physical distancing, with masks” and encourage them to vote early. Oct. 24 is a Vote Early Day promoted by a national group of media companies, nonprofits, technology platforms, election administrators, and other individuals and organizations. “It’s a Saturday,” Cook notes, so Hillel is encouraging Jewish students to vote by Oct. 24.

The three student ambassadors also are reaching out to students in Hillel’s database with phone calls and texts, and organizing social media campaigns, Cook says.

Kaplan, a junior in the UArizona Honors College from Carlsbad, California, is a member of the local Hillel board and part of its student leadership team. She helped create an infographic about the Jewish value of voting for UA Hillel’s Facebook and Instagram page
Political science is one of Kaplan’s three majors, along with law and Judaic studies.

“Through my course of study I’ve had the opportunity to learn the importance of civic action,” she says.

The infographic also covers how to make a voting plan. “I think often, a lot of young people, especially, will register to vote and then Election Day will roll around and they won’t have a plan,” Kaplan says. The infographic provides information on polling places as well as how to turn in mail-in ballots, which is important because the post office at the campus student union is currently closed.

“We’re worried that some students aren’t going to know where they can turn in their ballots, which is really dangerous,” Kaplan says, “and we want to make sure that everybody votes if they can.”