With the help of a partner and cosponsors, the American Medical Student Association wants to get members registered to vote and help others get to the polls as well.
Like many advocacy organizations, the American Medical Student Association has felt stymied in recent months by legislative gridlock. AMSA has decided to use that as an opportunity to encourage its membership to register to vote and encourage others to do so in next month’s midterm elections.
Med Out the Vote, as the campaign is called, is the brainchild of AMSA National President Dr. Perry Tsai, who had been thinking about how to improve engagement among members since taking the role in May. “The message I was getting back in May and June was that we’ve got all these [advocacy] goals, but we and all the other advocacy organizations that we work with are basically at a standstill until the midterm elections are done,” he said. “So the only thing that we could focus on in terms of getting our goals to where we want them was to have some sort of influence on the election. And the way to do that was voter registration and voter mobilization.”
The long-term goal is creating a culture change.
Three pledges make up the core of the campaign: A pledge to vote, to help others vote, and/or to mobilize voters through canvassing. In all three cases, AMSA provides resources to those who take the pledge, from pins and stickers to more active guidance for registration and mobilization efforts. Since the initiative launched in July, Tsai said, approximately 600 people have signed on to the pledge.
An AMSA advocacy fellow who handles government relations for the association is helping to coordinate Med Out the Vote work with volunteers. The campaign also benefits from a partnership with Citizen Physicians, a nonprofit that promotes civic engagement among emerging healthcare workers. Citizen Physicians had developed its own voter-registration program and resources, and those are now folded into Med Out the Vote.
The relationship is a tricky one, however, because while AMSA takes advocacy positions on issues such as healthcare reform and gun safety, Citizen Physicians is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3), as are many of Med Out the Vote’s more than a dozen cosponsors.
“We’ve been very careful that the messaging is completely nonpartisan, which is easy to do when you’re talking about pledging to vote or pledging to do voter registration,” Tsai said. “It’s a little bit harder with voter mobilization because a lot those efforts, things like phone banking, text banking, or canvassing, are organized by partisan organizations.” Rather than direct people who pledge to partisan organizations or individual candidates, AMSA recommends internet searches on “get out the vote” or “voter mobilization” in their areas.
Regardless of how people participate, Tsai said, he intends for Med Out the Vote to continue after next month’s elections. He said he sees opportunities for the initiative to focus on broader voting-related issues, from voter suppression to the role healthcare facilities might have in voter registration. “The long-term goal is creating a culture change such that voting and civic engagement is a normalized integrated part of being a healthcare professional,” he said.