2020 Election Buttons
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Both U-M and MSU Hillels are using Hillel International’s MitzVote campaign.

With Election Day less than two weeks away, Jewish college students across Michigan are still in the process of voting early or making their plans to vote on Election Day.

For the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, campus Hillels are helping those students in every way possible, acting as a source of information in an important time.

Both U-M Hillel and MSU Hillel are putting their election efforts into Hillel International’s MitzVote, a non-partisan get-out-the-vote campaign providing students with the education and resources they need to mobilize and vote in the 2020 election.

U-M Hillel Chair Sarah Pomerantz says one of the ways they’ve encouraged students to vote is through Shabbat meal handouts, where upperclassmen will pick up meals while U-M Hillel provides stamps, envelopes and forms for registration and absentee applications.

“Our goal there was to get as many (students) registered as possible,” Pomerantz said.

On Monday, the final day for voter registration in Michigan, U-M Hillel had a table set up at the center of campus with registration materials, answering any questions and directing them to where they can vote early on campus.

On Tuesday, in collaboration with Ohio State University’s Hillel, U-M Hillel held a “Why Vote?” election discussion panel with special guests including former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and former Michigan state Senator Gilda Jacobs. The event centered around the importance of voting and how Jewish values play into that.

U-M Hillel is also using MotiVote, a platform aiming to get people registered and increase voter turnout “by making the journey more easy, social and fun”.

Participants get placed into teams, and teams get points when participants complete specific tasks such as checking voting registration through the platform, by making a specific voting plan on the platform, and more.

“It’s basically a vote-based competition and a way to keep track of what you have done and still need to do, and it does some recruiting work for poll workers as well,” Pomerantz said.

While promoting voting has it’s obvious difficulties during a pandemic, Pomerantz believes it’s also opened up new opportunities for U-M Hillel.

“Before, I probably wouldn’t have considered any program with OSU Hillel, and I think as far as being able to get interesting people to speak with us, it becomes not that big of an ask to jump on a Zoom call for an hour instead of flying out and staying here overnight,” Pomerantz said. “We’re asking less of their time and we’re able to put on a program that otherwise people wouldn’t get to experience.”

Nate Strauss, Director of Jewish Student Life of MSU Hillel, says they’re also putting all their efforts into the MitzVote campaign.

On November 2, the day before Election Day, MSU Hillel is holding an event to celebrate voting. That event will also be an opportunity for students to attend and make a plan on how they’ll vote in-person the following day.

“Whether that’s taking a Lyft, because Lyfts are free to the polls on Election Day, or if they need a friend to wait in line with them or something like that, we’re happy to coordinate that,” Strauss said.

Strauss says MSU Hillel has been focusing on having lots of individual conversations with students about voting, especially on the logistics side of things, and being a source of information more than anything.

In the next two weeks, MSU Hillel will be launching multiple social media campaigns discussing how voting is a Jewish value and providing a prayer for voting the day before the election.

Strauss estimates about 85-90% of Jewish MSU students that MSU Hillel has interacted with have voted early or absentee.

As a result of so many students voting early and not all of them necessarily receiving an “I Voted” sticker, MSU Hillel is providing hundreds of “I MitzVoted” stickers that they’ll be giving to students who voted early.

“Students like that, and they like to post on social media about the fact that they voted, so we’re excited about that,” Strauss said.

Strauss had conversations with MSU students who will be voting in the presidential election for the first time this year, and was impressed with how hyper-informed and hyper-aware the young voters are.

“They said this is such a monumental election, they feel like it was completely normal and natural to vote in it, rather than it being this new unknown kind of thing,” he said. “It’s really exciting and interesting to see that students are not viewing this as just ‘this is my right to vote’ but ‘this is my duty to vote’”.

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