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The Last Word: Rose Reilly

April 24, 2024

Rose Reilly (BA ’24) is the president of Turn Up Turnout, a student-led, nonpartisan organization dedicated to increasing voter registration and turnout for college students. Her passion was sparked at age 16, when she led a voter registration drive at Dexter High School with the League of Women Voters—a project that continues to this day in Washtenaw County high schools. Reilly will attend Harvard Law School next fall to study election law. Her goal? To make voting more accessible to all eligible voters.

State & Hill: How are U-M students thinking about elections right now?

Rose Reilly: We read so much in the news about youth voter apathy in 2024, but that just doesn’t square with my day-to-day experience. Students understand that the stakes are the same as in 2020. They understand that state and local elections, particularly elected judicial positions, have a huge impact on issues that we care about. Our vote really counts for a lot.

S&H: What do you say to anyone who may feel hopeless
about the state of politics?

It was instilled in me this idea that whether you like the candidates or not, you go out and vote. We can and should encourage a culture of civic duty. Ultimately, we need to demonstrate the importance of voting and what we are trying to do to make it easier to vote. We need to demonstrate the power that voters have to bring coalitions together to create change. I think this is what’s been happening for young voters and why we’re seeing a swell in voter participation.

S&H: Can alumni and friends get involved?

I encourage our alumni and friends to reach out to their state legislatures across the U.S. to support student-friendly voting rules. They can also express their appreciation to university leaders for their continued support of this nonpartisan effort. We would not be able to do this work if we did not have the institutional support opening doors for us. If folks are interested in supporting TUT financially, please reach out to Kellen Epstein at the Ford School.

S&H: Edie Goldenberg is TUT’s advisor. How has she
provided guidance?

Edie has defined my time at Michigan. She exposed me to the huge university infrastructure, made sure that there was always a seat at the table for me, and also provided scaffolding so that I could contribute to what was going on at the table. I’ve learned how to navigate complex institutions and understand the way interrelated and sometimes overlapping jurisdictions come together to create institutional policy. Within this context, I’ve learned how to direct my efforts to create change or awareness on an issue.

Edie also introduced me to a world of career options I didn’t know existed. I feel incredibly lucky to have had someone as impressive, student-focused, and supportive as her in my corner.

It’s been meaningful to me to take what I’ve learned from this experience and mentor those who will lead TUT after I’m gone. I’ve helped next year’s co-presidents (Maurielle Courtois and Hillary Poudeu Tchokothe) find their leadership voice—and now I’m excited to see where they will take TUT in November.

About Turn Up Turnout (TUT)

  • Established in 2017
  • 3 nonpartisan goals: voter registration, education, and turnout mobilization
  • 3 U-M campuses, across all 19+ schools and colleges in Ann Arbor
  • 50 student members
  • Deserves some credit: 78% of U-M students voted in 2020, up from 60% in 2016

More in State & Hill

Below, find the full, formatted spring 2024 edition of State & Hill. Click here to return to the spring 2024 S&H homepage.