U.S. voter registration numbers are up big in some places, but they are down even bigger in others. Where they’re down, the cloud of Covid-19 is clearly the culprit. The threat of catching the highly communicable coronavirus concerns millions, while millions have already caught it — more than 7 million, according to the latest Johns Hopkins data.
Thousands are in treatment or recovery. But being sick and hospitalized doesn’t mean you give up your right to vote. How are those voters supposed to exercise their rights?
Stanford Graduate School of Business MBA candidate Ben Ruxin spent the summer helping to answer that question. As the strategy and operations intern at VotER, a nonprofit whose mission is to strengthen healthcare “one vote at a time,” Ruxin helped hospital patients register to vote in the 2020 presidential election.
“Voter registration has gone down as much as 70% in some states, largely due to the pandemic,” he says. “Healthcare is perfectly positioned to advance democracy and civic participation.”
A DRIVE FOR CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
VotER aims to bridge the connection between civic engagement and democratic involvement by distributing Healthy Democracy Kits to healthcare providers. The kits include badge backers with a QR code on a lanyard. Patients simply scan the code on their phone, which then leads them to an online landing page where they can register to vote.
The organization’s philosophy can be summed up as a belief that empowered voices in communities lead to positive outcomes. “Despite many services being transferred to an online format due to the pandemic, doctors, nurses, and social workers are still seeing patients in-person. This, combined with the amount of trust and importance placed in our healthcare system right now, has created an opportunity for healthcare providers to make an impact on voter registration.”
Ruxin’s undergraduate degree in political science and economics from Swarthmore College, in the greater Philadelphia area, and his experience working in management consulting and the nonprofit sector all equipped him with the skills that made him a good candidate to assist the efforts to boost votership in healthcare across the country.
The internship with VotER is right in line with his MBA goals, too. Seeking further skills in nonprofit management and social impact, Ruxin chose Stanford GSB for its impressive social innovation track. Upon finding VotER when seeking internship opportunities, he applied to the organization through the Social Management Immersion Fellowship program — which funds internships for small organizations — at Stanford’s Center of Social Innovation.
VOTING LIKE OUR HEALTH DEPENDS ON IT
At VotER, Ruxin helped to increase the distribution of Healthy Democracy Kits and gain partners through the launch of the Civic Health Month campaign.
The August campaign encouraged healthcare and democracy organizations to work together at the institutional level to empower healthcare providers to talk to patients about voting. Ruxin, leading the Civic Health Month campaign, helped not only to increase voting registrations but also awareness of the movement nationwide.
Civic Health Month’s goal was to get as many patients registered to vote as possible. It assisted in the engagement of over 15,000 healthcare professionals and over 90 organizations, including large hospitals and physicians’ associations. This led to 9,500 registrations and ballot requests in the month of August alone.
“Healthcare professionals and organizations that were engaged in Civic Health Month are continuing to help more patients get ready to vote,” Ruxin says. “They are currently impacting over 400 voters every day.”
A PASSION FOR STRATEGY & SOCIAL IMPACT EDUCATION
Ruxin points out that he couldn’t have spearheaded the campaign alone; he ran a team of undergraduate interns who worked behind the scenes to write emails, create content, and produce webinars to encourage healthcare professionals to help their patients get ready to vote.
Inspired by the momentum at VotER, Ruxin has decided to stay at the organization on a part-time basis as he begins the fall semester at Stanford. He says he will continue to support the initiative with strategic planning, providing resources to the partners that came on board during Civic Health Month.
Inspired to continue to help create tangible change, Ruxin says he plans to continue working with mission-driven organizations after graduation, following his passion for strategy and social impact education.