Students now have one more reason to register to vote.
The Ultimate College Bowl, a voter registration competition that targets college students, is offering a free, on-campus Death Cab for Cutie concert to the university with the most number of students who register to vote between Sept. 5 and Nov. 5. The university with the highest percentage of students registered within that period will win a free concert from another band, which has not been disclosed, according to UCB’s Web site.
The competition is being sponsored by social networking Web site MySpace and Why Tuesday?, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing voter turnout and participation. Declare Yourself, HeadCount, Student PIRGs and Rock the Vote, the country’s four largest nonpartisan voter registration groups, are also collaborating on the project.
The contest is open to anyone with a MySpace account who is currently enrolled at an accredited college or university. Entrants have to download a “widget” from UCB’s Web site to embed onto their MySpace pages. The widget directs visitors to a Web site where they can fill out voter registration forms online and keeps track of the number people who have finished registration. However, only students who print out paper copies of their forms and send them to the appropriate voting registration office will be counted toward competition totals. Voter registration groups use a variety of methods to confirm students have completed the registration process, including checking entry forms against registration databases, Andy Bernstein, co-chair of HeadCount, wrote in an e-mail.
The six students who register the most people to vote will each receive a $10,000 scholarship. Those six and nine runners-up will also receive a Guitar Hero 2 game set.
Junior biology major and Ultimate College Bowl participant Meagan Harris said the chance to win a Death Cab for Cutie concert motivated her to enter the contest.
“That’s the whole reason I started,” Harris said. “I didn’t even know there were individual prizes until I got on the Web site.”
Don Mills, vice chancellor for student affairs, said TCU would be happy to host an on-campus concert if Harris won. The concert would likely take place in the Campus Commons area, he said.
TCU students who want to help Harris bring Death Cab for Cutie to campus can look up her Facebook group, “Death Cab for Cutie at TCU!” or visit her MySpace page.
Barnett Zitron, managing director of Why Tuesday?, said the UCB is the most significant online voter registration drive to date because it marks the first time that all four voter registration groups have worked together. Zitron said the members of his organization don’t care if they have to “prime the pump” by holding a contest in order to get more young people to vote.
“College students compete in everything from football to fencing to debates,” Zitron said. “Why not on the playing field of democracy, where our futures are most at stake?”
Assistant professor of political science Adam Schiffer said he sees no ethical concerns with offering students incentives for registering to vote.
“They still have to make the extra effort to go to the polls on Election Day,” Schiffer said. “Some people go to the polls armed with a lot of facts to make an informed decision, and some don’t. That doesn’t necessarily reflect the circumstances under which they were registered.”
So far, State University of New York at Albany is leading with 793 registrants and Belmont University has the highest percentage of voters with 6.76 percent.