All signs point to a highly competitive election season in 2020 and Michigan State University is doing its part to increase student voting.
The Big Ten Voting Challenge is a nonpartisan initiative created to spur civic engagement and encourage more students across the Big Ten to head to the polls on Election Day.
College students across the 14 member institutions of the Big Ten Conference voted in record numbers during the 2018 midterm elections, following the challenge put forth by the presidents of their institutions in 2017.
An estimated 7.5 million students across the country voted in 2018 midterms, according to data from the National Study of Learning, Voting and Student Engagement at Tufts University.
The average student voting rate across the Big Ten Conference spiked to 43%, surpassing the national average student voting rate of 40 percent, and more than double the national student voting rate of 19% in 2014.
As a result of the increased voter turnout, the 14 presidents across the Big Ten Conference have agreed to continue the challenge for the 2020 presidential election.
MSU’s student voting increased to 35% in 2018, up from 14% in 2014. MSUVote, co-chaired by Renee Brown, director of the MSU Center for Community Engaged Learning, and Suchitra Webster, MSU community liaison, have led a robust effort to engage campus and community to increase student participation in elections.
MSU was designated a Voter Friendly Campus beginning in 2016 by making full use of a variety of methods to encourage students to participate in elections. “Our teamwork includes voter vans on Election Day, voter registration at summer orientation programs, and a tight partnership with Associated Students of MSU,” Brown said. “We also have longstanding relationships with the East Lansing City Clerk’s Office and the League of Women Voters, one of our unique features in the efforts of Big Ten institutions.”
“In 2020 we will work closely with local clerks to encourage students to be part of a permanent absentee voter list. With the voting law changes passed in 2018, the entire voting process should be simpler for students. The March 10 presidential primary and the November presidential election are key events, and we have a proactive process to encourage and improve participation,” Webster said.
Led by the Ginsberg Center at the University of Michigan, the challenge awards two campuses for their student voting efforts: greatest student voter turnout, and most improved turnout between elections. The inaugural challenge focused on the 2018 midterm election in comparison to the 2014 midterms.
The University of Minnesota led the conference with the greatest overall turnout of student voters at 59%, up 29 percentage points from nearly 30% in 2014.
Rutgers University achieved the most improved student voter turnout between 2014 and 2018 with a 31 percentage point increase to 43% in 2018, up from 12% in 2014.
The winners were presented trophies by the Ginsberg Center at the “ALL IN Challenge Awards Ceremony” during a November 15 event in Washington, D.C., which honors outstanding contributions to improving college democratic engagement.
As for the 2020 Big Ten Voting Challenge, Brown and Webster have told President Stanley that MSU will be ready with a strong, informative, and supportive environment during the upcoming elections.
“Congratulations to this year’s winners, and may we all experience continued success as we see students realize the power of voting. The biggest winner then, is our democratic process,” Brown said.