Hawk the Vote helps Hawkeyes register to vote after low 2018 turnout numbers

With a larger student body, Hawk the Vote prepares to improve Iowa’s voting rate for the November midterms by spreading word online and increasing the number of in-person voter registration opportunities.

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Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Hawk the Vote volunteers Mackenzie Northup and Alexis Carfrae talk to a student during the Student Engagement Fair at Hubbard Park in Iowa City on August 31, 2022.

Sydney Libert, News Reporter


The University of Iowa’s nonpartisan voter registration initiative Hawk the Vote wants to increase voter registration rates amid the approaching midterms.

According to the UI’s 2020 National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement Report, while the initiative has seen a rise in the percentage of students registering and voting, data from 2018’s midterm elections pale in comparison to 2016 and 2020’s presidential elections.

During the 2020 presidential elections, 67.4 percent of eligible UI students exercised their right to vote, slightly above the 2020 voting rate of all institutions. However, the voting rate of students during the 2018 midterm election fell to 47.6 percent, a 15.6 percent drop from 2016’s presidential elections before the initiative began.

With the addition of the third-largest freshman class size this academic year, an influx of eager voters lined up to register at Hawk the Vote tables during the first few weeks of classes. Sonja Cutts, a first-yearout-of-state student from Portland, Oregon, registered with Hawk the Vote during an On Iowa! tabling events.

Before coming to campus, Cutts unsuccessfully attempted to find online resources outlining how to re-register to vote in Iowa.

“All the information online was really confusing, and then when I came here, and I went to one of the tables where they were signing [people] up,” Cutts said. “It took me five minutes and it was super easy.”

Hawk the Vote Social Media Director MacKenzie Northup said in her experience registering students, she mostly saw Iowa residents registering for the first time.

Students can re-register to vote in the state of Iowa using their Iowa City address and the last four-digits of their Social Security number, or opt to request an absentee ballot.

Hawk the Vote is planning to set up office hours in the Iowa Memorial Union in the coming weeks to allow students to register in-person.

Infographic by Archie Wagner

Northup said she hopes more students will recognize the importance of their voice in the upcoming elections.

“A lot of times people have the attitude that their vote won’t count,” Northup said. “Your vote does matter. It can come down to a few votes, especially in local elections.”

In the coming months, Hawk the Vote intends to spread the word out about voting to encourage students to do the same using its own platforms.

RELATED: Hawk the Vote looks toward local elections on National Voter Registration Day

“You can decide what commitment you want, but the goal of that is to just flood everybody’s feed with election posts so that nobody can say that they don’t know that the election is happening,” Northup said.

Recently, the initiative has promoted its voting ambassador program, in which students can volunteer to reach out to discuss and share voting plans with their friends and family.

Student organizations on campus can engage in a brand partnership with the Hawk the Vote by sharing information on their social media platforms or can choose to participate in the 90% Challenge. Student organizations, Greek Life chapters, and groups with more than 90 percent of their affiliated students receive a civic engagement seal from the UI Leadership, Service, and Civic Engagement office.

Student organizations, and even UI athletics, can join.

Steven Roe, the assistant athletics director of Iowa’s athletic communications, wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that “Athletic Student Services will promote Hawk the Vote programming to student-athletes this fall as opportunities for civic engagement.”

Other voting incentives, such as online giveaways and an election night party, intend to encourage students to act.

“It’s frustrating that you have to incentivize civic engagement, but I think it shows some ways that our systems are failing,” Northup said. “People aren’t eager to try to have their voice heard because they feel like they’ve never had it”.

While Northup said she agrees the presidential election is essential, she wants to remind students that the midterms can change the House of Representatives and the Senate.

“The power doesn’t just lie in the Presidency; it lies also in Congress and local elections,” Northup said.

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