During the 2018 midterm elections, IU participated in the All In Campus Democracy Challenge, a nation-wide effort to increase voter turnout, and the Big Ten Voting Challenge. During these challenges, voting rates at IU increased from 8.7% in 2014 to over 35% in 2018, according to an IU press release.
In recognition for its efforts in the Big Ten Voting Challenge, IU was awarded the Silver Campus Seal for excellence in student voter engagement. Earning the silver seal means IU was in the 30th percentile of schools in the nation in terms of the amount of eligible voters who came out on election day.
The Political and Civic Engagement center at IU led the charge of the All In and the Big Ten efforts on campus. Before this, PACE had not been focused on electoral engagement, but other forms of democratic engagement, director Lisa-Marie Napoli said.
PACE partners with many other campus organizations, like the O'Neill School of Environmental and Public Affairs and the Office of First Year Experiences to form the steering committee which runs the campaign efforts.
The committee formed a three-pronged approach for the 2018 challenge in order to reach and inform the most voters. They focused on voter registration, nonpartisan education and encouraging students to get out and vote, according to the 2018 action plan.
“Whatever we do, we want to impact political culture in positive ways,” Napoli said.
Registering to vote is a major aspect of electoral engagement, Napoli said. PACE and other campus groups ran weekly registration tables across campus in 2018. Groups would set up in high-traffic areas as well as campus and community-wide events to make sure every student had access and information on registration.
Between 2014 and 2018, voter registration increased by 14.2%, according to the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement at Tufts University.
Nonpartisan education is another part of ensuring everyone has the information they need before they go to the polls, according to the 2018 action plan. Information on candidates, poll locations and transportation were available to students across campus.
The final prong of the action plan was getting students to go to the polls and cast their votes. The voting station at the IMU was a large part of access for students on campus to vote. PACE organized free shuttle services for early voting and ride-share apps like Uber and Lyft offered discounted rides to the polls, Napoli said.
Due to the success of the Big Ten Voting Challenge in 2018, the 14 participating Big Ten universities have pledged to continue the challenge in 2020. Each of the university presidents have pledged $10,000 to be used to promote student electoral engagement.
On top of running the Big Ten Voting Challenge in 2020, PACE will also be organizing a series of events next semester to celebrate the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. The 100 year anniversary of Indiana passing the amendment is Jan. 16.
“It is important to remind people that voting is their way to have a voice in our democracy,” Napoli said.
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