Athletic department challenges student athletes to register to vote

With the 2020 election only a few short weeks away, there has been a heavy focus on voter registration on the St. Olaf College campus. The St. Olaf athletic department decided to challenge each of the sports teams to have 100 percent of eligible voters on the team registered for this upcoming election.

Michael Abdella, Director of Communications for the athletic department, said this initiative was created because the athletic department wanted to keep student athletes “engaged in a fall that’s not a traditional fall for them and all St. Olaf Students.” Due to COVID-19, athletic teams are unable to have games this fall, but are still able to participate in practices and workouts. Abdella said the athletic department was just “looking for ways to keep them engaged and obviously the election is […] really important.” The search to engage student athletes in this untraditional time, in addition to the upcoming election influenced the department’s decision to create the voter registration challenge.

While the voter registration initiative’s primary goal is to engage student athletes in this year’s election, Abdella says that he hopes that the push for voter registration among student athletes will “encourage as many of them to use their voices and start up a habit to make them lifelong voters.” 

The St. Olaf volleyball team was the first St. Olaf sports team to reach the 100 percent registered voter mark, kicking off the voter registration challenge. The team showcased their achievement in a video on the St. Olaf athletics’ and the St. Olaf volleyball team’s Instagram pages. Abdella said that creating a video was the volleyball team’s idea, and they thought it would be a fun way to go about encouraging other teams to participate. Rather than challenging one team, St. Olaf Volleyball challenged all other St. Olaf athletic teams to be 100 percent registered to vote, ensuring that the challenge reached the entirety of the student athlete population.

Many other St. Olaf College athletic teams quickly accepted the challenge. These teams have posted their commitment or achievement in reaching the registration goal in similar videos on the St. Olaf athletics’ Instagram page.

Abdella hopes that the voter registration challenge and the corresponding videos presented on the St. Olaf athletics’ Instagram page encourages other students to do the same in regards to registering to vote.

Only 66.2 percent of eligible St. Olaf students voted in the 2016 election, so it is possible that the roughly 550 student athletes could increase the voter participation of students in the 2020 presidential election.

The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference as well as the St. Olaf athletic department decided that there will be no athletic-related activities on Election Day. This decision was made to allow student athletes to have the available time to be able to go out and vote.

The state of Minnesota has same day voter registration for in-person polls up to Election Day on Nov 3.

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