TU Athletes Vote is a slam dunk for democracy

By Kyle Hobstetter on October 26, 2020

TU Athletes Vote helps student-athletes understand their role in the 2020 election

TU Student Athletes during thier Voter Registration Day Rally
Towson University student-athletes have been out promoting the importance of voting in the 2020 election. This includes a "Honk if You're Voting" rally as part National Voter Registration Day. 

As the fall approaches, Towson University women's basketball associate head coach Zach Kancher usually finds himself getting his team ready for the upcoming season.

This year, he has a different strategy in mind.

Kancher has served as the lead in TU Athletics in creating TU Athletes Vote, a nonpartisan group that connects TU student-athletes with educational resources related to voting.

TU Athletes Vote, a partnership with the Office of Civic Engagement & Social Responsibility and the TU Votes Coalition, provides resources on absentee ballots, information on candidates and each state’s voting rules. The work has paid off: 11 Towson University teams have 100% of the rosters registered to vote.

Read more: TU is one just nine universities in the nation with at least 85 percent of the student body registered to vote.

Kancher has leaned into his coaching background, creating voting and election scouting reports.

“It’s like we’re playing James Madison, and our scouting report lets us know everything about the team,” Kancher says. “This is the same thing. I’m scouting this election and the voting process. I think by presenting it within that framework, it becomes more digestible for student-athletes and, frankly, coaches as well.”

LaKaitlin Wright, a senior women’s basketball player from Alamo, Georgia, has been registered voter since she was 18, Wright has become a student-athlete recruiter and part of the Colonial Athletic Association’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Voter Registration Subcommittee.

“I think the most surprising thing when I'm talking to students is that they don't understand how important it is and how much of an impact they can have,” Wright says. “It was hard at first getting students to understand that their voice could be heard. But to see that progression—we have teams that are 100% registered to vote—it’s beautiful to see.

“It has really brought camaraderie between the student-athletes on campus.”

That solidarity has expanded to events promoting general voter registration. On National Voter Registration Day, TU student-athletes held a rally on Osler bridge, urging drivers to honk if they were registered.

Registration is just half the job. Kancher and the TU Athletes Vote team are now focused on getting student-athletes to the polls. In fact, several will volunteer at Towson University’s early voting polling location at the South Campus Pavilion.

“Since a lot of our students are voting early, they are going to volunteer and see democracy in action,” Kancher says. “And if early voter turnout across the country is any indication, we're going to see lines down the block here.”

When early voting opened in Maryland on Monday, the line of voters from the South Campus Pavilion early voting location backed down Auburn Drive toward SECU Arena.

The early voting location is open through Election Day, when the pavilion is also open for Election Day voting.

Kancher’s efforts have drawn national attention, including from USA Today, which highlighted Kancher alongside coaches from intercollegiate teams at Siena, Missouri and Wisconsin.

The associate head coach has also developed the Student-Athlete Voter Engagement (SAVE) Alliance to deliver updated information about voting resources to coaches and student-athletes around the country through social media.

He has used the platform to give presentations to more than 60 schools, organizations and athletic conferences.

“This is about getting people to go to the polls and understanding that their vote matters,” Kancher says. “And it’s been awesome. The other night I presented to the Georgia State Athletic Department, then the next night I’m talking to a junior college in California, then two schools in Alabama, then Chicago and everywhere in between.”  

While there are organizations focused on registering student-athletes to vote, he felt there was a vacuum when it came to informing them about ballot contents and the voting process.

“I didn't see anybody doing that, especially tailored toward student-athletes,” Kancher says. “I think that was really the impetus for it. I think we've now reached the saturation level where student-athletes across the country really understand that it's important to be registered to vote.”

To stay up to date with the TU Athletes Vote initiative, follow them on Twitter and Instagram. To learn more about TU Voter Coalition and Civic Engagement opportunities, follow The Office of Civic Engagement & Social Responsibility on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland.