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GoBears GoVote Initiative Gaining Steam

Oct 13, 2020
Members of the Cal lacrosse team have played a huge role in the Go Bears Go Vote initiative.

The 2020 election is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, Nov. 3. In most states, there is still time to register to vote and there are many sources for additional voter information including and  

BERKELEY There is an important movement underway within Cal Athletics ahead of this November's election, and four political science majors on the school's lacrosse team are leading the way while a former teammate is credited for getting it started two years ago.

When Madison Roberts was attending Flint Hill Elementary School growing up in Northern Virginia just outside the nation's capital, her mother, Gail, made it a habit of taking Madison and her twin brother, Clayton, to the polls on Election Day. The donuts served as an immediate fringe benefit but the beginning of Roberts' political awareness was the long-lasting result.

"It was very exciting just to be part of the process," said Roberts, who recalls helping her mom push a few buttons in the voting booth.

Fast forward to August of 2015 when Roberts arrived as a true freshman in Berkeley just over a year before the 2016 presidential election.

"I saw a huge lack of voter turnout in my age group," Roberts said. "I felt like I had this platform and these resources within Cal Athletics, so I wanted to see what I could do to get more young people involved.

In the summer of 2018, Roberts started an initiative to get as many of Cal's 850 student-athletes registered to vote as possible prior to that November's election. In a short amount of time, her efforts caught on quickly and garnered media attention from the likes of the San Francisco Chronicle and National Public Radio (NPR). Roberts started the endeavor mostly on her own but ended up working with the student organization CALPIRG as well as the national nonprofit RISE (Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality). She also had help from fellow Cal students, who chipped in to help with projects like making fliers and staffing tables at Cal Athletics events.

"It got pretty exciting," Roberts said.

A foursome of current lacrosse student-athletes – LizaBanks Campagna, Kamryn Lanier, Catherine Roxas and Nikki Zaccaro – wanted to carry the torch in advance of the 2020 election. They reached out to Roberts this past summer for guidance but have taken it upon themselves to restart the initiative and advance it several steps further.

"Madison was able to give us a summary of how things went for her two years ago – what she was able to accomplish, what she wasn't, and what she thought we could do to make it better," Roxas said. "That helped us prep for what to expect and how to best achieve it."

"We were able to shift our focus to trying to meet with as many Cal teams as possible," Campagna added. "One thing Madison wished she'd gotten to do was get in front of more of our teams, so that was an area that we worked to build off of and improve."

One way the foursome is attempting to reach as many teams as possible this year is by partnering with the newly formed Cal Athletics Racial Justice Council. Campagna and Roxas have worked with founding council members Cailyn Crocker and Sierra Richey, as well as head coach Charmin Smith, from the Cal women's basketball team to have the GoBears GoVote initiative live under the umbrella of the Racial Justice Council. With a key new ally and many more connections in place, the primary task quickly moved on to further developing the voter education presentation they are in the midst of giving to as many teams as they can. With the COVID-19 pandemic making large in-person gatherings impossible, the quartet is splitting up the work and giving the approximately 20-minute, interactive session via Zoom. The presentation provides a QR code that quickly checks current voter registration status, while also covering the importance of voting, how to request and cast absentee ballots, and what a ballot looks like. Resources about how to stay informed on election candidates and issues are also provided.

Roxas heads up the data gathering process and says the women's basketball, beach volleyball, women's gymnastics, lacrosse, volleyball and women's water polo teams are already 100% registered among eligible voters. Voter registration from the teams who have been presented has risen 15 points from 81 to 96 percent.

"Registering 100 percent of all eligible voters among our student-athletes is our ultimate goal," Lanier said

The quartet is also working on a resource document where all items relevant to the initiative can be referenced.

"It's great when we're sharing our screen and making the presentation, but if they're not writing it down and taking notes we don't want those resources to just be lost in the air," Roxas said.

Another primary goal was to get the Cal athletics department mobilized behind the initiative in a much bigger way than Roberts was able to in 2018. The cause took a huge step toward that when Roxas introduced GoBears GoVote to about 250 Cal Athletics employees at a recent all-staff Zoom meeting, and then a week later Campagna made a similar presentation at an assistant coaches' get together.

"We've been pretty successful at garnering the support of the athletic department," Roxas said. "Having the athletic department backing us to remind coaches and all the other people who are behind the scenes that this is a top priority has been really important and helped us achieve a lot of our goals."

"We want to ensure that every student-athlete at Cal has the resources to be registered to vote," Zaccaro  added.

That's the immediate goal, but like Roberts knew two years ago, the foursome believes the movement can be so much more down the road.

"The most effective way to increase voter turnout is by having conversations with friends and family about their plan of action to vote and to remind them of deadlines," Campagna said. "It means so much more for it to be coming from someone you know. With these presentations, we hope to be providing the tools for student-athletes to go home to their friends and family and encourage them of their civic duty to vote."

The quartet also hopes to continue being involved with the voter registration movement long after their Cal days end.

"It's a great thing to be a part of," said Roxas, who interned last summer with a nonpartisan election administration company called the Center for Election Innovation and Research. "It feels like we're making a difference outside of just our sport. It's not something where we're just checking off the box at the end of the day. There's a lot of room for this project to grow. We're really hoping this is an initiative that can live on at Cal and that every election cycle someone within the athletic department will take it and get it rolling again."

That's something Roberts is excited to see continue after her graduation.

"I'm so thrilled to see this carrying on," Roberts said. "It's tremendous how well-organized it is and how it's presence is increasing both in the athletic department and across the entire campus. I feel like Cal Athletics has really supported it and made it something they really want their student-athletes to do."