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September 17, 2020
Good luck trying to coax a busy college student to complete a long paper form and (ugh!) find stamps to (gasp!) mail it to the state’s voter registration office. It’s just not likely to happen. Paper is so last millennium, to say nothing of germ-harboring writing implements. Piedmont Technical College staffers Beth Jaeger, Lisa Toland and Sara Perry had a challenge on their hands — how to encourage students to participate in our democracy.
“There’s no question that they care about what’s going on, and they want to have a voice in civic affairs,” said Perry, a counselor at PTC’s Newberry Campus, “To an extent. … But there are only so many hoops they’re willing to jump with all they have on their plate with school.”
Ordinarily, a display table is set up on the lobby of the Newberry Campus with a stack of voter registration forms for students to pick up. After that, it’s up to the student, who often is on the way to class, and forms picked up with the best of intentions get crumpled in the bottom of their backpacks. What to do?
“Since everything that has been going on with COVID-19, we tried to think about other ways to get students involved in voting without using a lot of paper or human contact,” Perry explained. “Beth and I put our heads together to find viable options. I wondered if there was a way to use QR codes. Students use their phones all the time. There had to be a way to accommodate them accordingly.”
Jaeger, director of the PTC Newberry County Campus, contacted the SC Election Commission to inquire about “touchless” voter registration resources, and, sure enough, the agency had QR codes for that very purpose. Students can scan the QR code from preprinted cards. Scanning the code enables users to download an app to complete the application online via their phone or other device. No human contact necessary. No dirty pens. No cumbersome paper to keep up with.
Now the Newberry Campus lobby display has been updated to offer QR code cards. It’s just one convenience Jaeger and Perry wanted to provide to students to help make their lives just a little bit easier.
Most colleges make some effort to register students to vote, and this very simple idea could be easily replicated on other campuses.
For more information about voter registration in South Carolina, please visit scvotes.gov.