Senior Becca Portman Leads Voter Registration Initiative at Northwestern and Beyond

Senior Becca Portman Leads Voter Registration Initiative at Northwestern and Beyond

Becca Portman

As freshmen hit campus this fall, senior Becca Portman is working to make sure that they’re registered to vote. Portman is a project coordinator for the UVote Project  at Northwestern, an initiative of the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) that integrates voter registration with official school activities.

Last summer Portman helped to develop the system for including voter registration as part of Wildcat Welcome orientation. That innovation resulted in increasing freshman voter registration from 40 percent to about 80 percent.

“When CCE realized how well the system worked at Northwestern, they decided to teach other schools how to do the same at their freshmen orientations,” Portman notes. Now UVote Project is working to help colleges and universities across the nation integrate voter registration into official school activities such as class registration or orientation.

Currently UVote has expanded to seven schools and has received funding to expand. Portman helps other schools by advising them on the best points at which to integrate voter registration, developing customized materials, training staff at other schools, and assisting with the actual registration process.

Portman has always been interested in politics, government and grassroots organizing, and she was drawn to UVote because she wanted to engage young people in a non-partisan way. “The U.S. voter registration system is extremely complicated, and even more so for college students who move frequently. UVote simplifies that process by making voter registration an easy and expected part of campus life,” she says. 

UVote will also be helping students to request absentee ballots if they want to vote in their home states for the presidential election. 

“My work at CCE really allows me to put the principles I learn in my SESP classes to use in the real world. Whether that is applying the fundamentals of asset-based community development to determine the best way to bring UVote to a new college or being able to tell a student at another school which policies they will be able to influence by exercising their voting rights, I am constantly referring to my SESP experience in order to be a better advocate for UVote,” Portman says.

A social policy major, Portman is a leader in other campus activities. She has been a student coordinator of the Northwestern University Public Interest Program since her freshman year. She has also been an organizer for the Living Wage Campaign, a community consultant for CampusCATALYST and a member of the Northwestern Community Building Initiative.

Becca Portman at a UVote drive at the University of Illinois-Chicago this summer.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 9/11/12