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Elite college invites Democratic Party to register students as voters, ignores Republican Party

Curious since it was already partnering with nonpartisan online service

Pomona College wants students to register to vote, so it partnered with a nonpartisan online voter registration service that automates much of the process.

For those students who like a personal touch, however, the elite southern California member of the Claremont Consortium invited one political party to register them on site, and even train them to register other voters for the midterm elections.

That’s right – one of the two major American parties, not to mention smaller parties.

The Claremont Independent reports that the Thursday event was to feature the deputy diversity director and training manager for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which supports Democratic candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Think midterm elections are important? Think voting access is vital to our democracy? Come learn how to register others to vote!” the Facebook event listing read. It made clear that the voter registration workshop was hosted “in collaboration” with residence hall staff, putting the official imprimatur of Pomona on an event run by a partisan political organization.

The Independent said the Facebook listing was “widely circulated throughout the college” and posters for it were “plastered” across campus.

MORE: 9 in 10 Pomona students tell Gallup campus climate hinders free speech

The administration’s use of a partisan political organization is curious, given an email posted by the Independent.

Student Body President Alejandro Guerrero announced two weeks ago that Associated Students of Pomona College is partnering with the DemocracyWorks service TurboVote to register students online.

Students simply have to fill out a form on a Pomona-specific TurboVote website, which will even send them a filled-out, postage-paid form to mail in if their states don’t allow online registration.

While the Thursday event was canceled two hours ahead because the DCCC official had “travel issues,” several students still showed up, according to the Independent.

William Gu, editor-in-chief at the Independent, confirmed to The College Fix that Pomona didn’t invite any Republican or conservative organization to also register student voters or train them to register other voters for the midterms.

“What puzzles me the most is that they’re already partnered with TurboVote, which is nonpartisan, so why take the chance and also partner with the DCCC and risk showing political bias, especially as a 501(c)3?” he wrote in an email.

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These nonprofit organizations, including Pomona, are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office,” according to IRS rules.

However, the agency explicitly exempts “voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives” conducted by 501(c)(3) organizations “if conducted in a non-partisan manner.” Inviting one major party but not another could be problematic for Pomona, particularly given that its residence hall staff – not private student groups – co-hosted the planned event.

“My guess is that some overzealous resident advisors pushed RHS to give the event an official stamp, but again, that’s just my guess,” Gu told The Fix.

Some private colleges have cited IRS rules as an excuse to clamp down on the independent political activity of students, claiming it could endanger the school’s tax-exempt status, including Georgetown Law School and DePaul University.

Director of Campus Life Christopher Waugh told the Independent that students “regardless of political affiliation” were invited to participate in the Thursday event, “and any participants registering voters are expected to follow voter registration procedures,” which ban the selective registration of potential voters.

Student Jacob Lubert didn’t buy the explanation, telling the Independent that that DCCC’s mission is explicitly partisan: “This is unethical and unfair to those Pomona students, who are here to learn and not have their politics dictated to them.” Another student who was not identified said residence hall staff should have reached out to a Republican organization as well.

Read the Independent report and Facebook listing.

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IMAGE: Pete Souza/White House

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.