Posts Tagged 'Midterm Elections'

Campus Spotlight: Missouri Western State University Gets Political

By Joanne Katz and David Tushaus, Missouri Western State University

Introduction: At Missouri Western State University we use a variety of ways to involve students in elections.  This includes activities in an upper level honors election law class, a freshman level Introduction to Law class, as well as recruiting students who are not in these classes. For the students in the classes, these activities qualify as the best kind of service learning, where students work in the community in a way that is related to the subject they are studying. We ask the students to create their own plans to register or educate voters and then carry it out, or work in the polls on election day. This has proven to be an effective way to teach critical thinking skills, foster civic engagement, and meet the needs of American democracy for increased citizen involvement. Though taught through law courses, these service learning activities can be used by a number of disciplines, including political science, history, and social work.

Voter education: The campus educational campaign in 2010 focused on the open seat in the Missouri United States Senate race. The students’ goal was to display information about each candidate that would be important to fellow students, such as education and health care. The students found it difficult to find credible sources. Candidates listed their platforms on their websites, but our students looked at other sources to find the candidates’ true stance. One student wrote “I felt that it was a good way to become an informed citizen, while creating a way to educate others. I learned more about each of the candidates than I would have if I just looked at the candidate I support. I was forced to look at both sides of the issue and think about which side I agreed with more.”

Voter registration: This year voter registration was more challenging for our students than it had been for the Presidential campaign in 2008. Many students were already registered, others less interested in the midterm elections. Registration efforts focused on college students to try to encourage their participation. While the total number of registrations was disappointing, one student remarked that “it’s a good feeling to know that we helped to get those people involved in our political process.”

College Poll Workers: An important component of the poll worker service learning project is the collaboration with a local election authority to provide students with a service learning opportunity in the polls on Election Day. We have had great success with this and it should not be hard to accomplish for schools considering adopting such a program. Election authorities should be aware that poll workers are an important part of the electorate’s satisfaction and confidence in the process (Claassen et al., 2008 citing Atkeson & Saunders, 2007; Hall et al., 2007; and Magleby et al., 2007).  The pool of able and willing poll workers is relatively small in an election, especially in some jurisdictions, and recruiting poll workers is one of the challenges for local election officials. In Missouri, most local election officials will pay their volunteers to work election day. Since Election Day is long, we find it works best to have college workers work ½ of the Election Day (which is still seven hours). This doubles the number of students who can participate and reduces the number of conflicts with classes and work.

Studies show that integrated service learning, where students work on social issues that they are studying, is the most effective method of service learning and may improve student analyses of issues, their perspectives on problem solving, and critical thinking skills. Most of the students we have surveyed have reported that they solved problems during their service-learning experience. Most students also reported that the experience increased their exposure to different viewpoints. This student’s comment on an evaluation reflects the overall student support of the service learning component of the class “The applied learning was fundamental to the educational success of the class.  If I had not been involved in one or both of the projects I would not have taken nearly as much from the class, and think a strong focus on applied learning is essential to its success.”

We do not yet have final numbers on our 2010 participation. Those should be available in time for Missouri Western State University’s Conference on Applied Learning on February 25-26.  So far we have found that most students who participate are upperclassmen, though many freshmen have participated without any problems. There were both traditional and non-traditional students who participated all years. More importantly, most students are very satisfied with their poll working experience and would work as a poll worker in the future (see chart).

Several undergraduate disciplines can work together or separately to offer a course like the ones used at Missouri Western, including legal studies, political science, history and social work. This service-learning opportunity will also provide most communities with needed resources in the important work of administering elections in our democracy, while giving students a unique and effective educational experience. Through an Election Assistance Commission grant, we have assembled a College Poll Worker guide, which includes curriculum and information on this service learning project. You can access this College Poll Worker guide at this website or the posting on this blog, or you can contact Professor Joanne Katz or Professor David Tushaus.

Super Saturday at Kennesaw State University

By Carlton Usher, Kennesaw State University

Super Saturday is the Atlanta Urban League Young Professional’s (AULYP) annual voter education series that emphasizes voting in national, state and local elections, as well as working with elected officials to enact change. Kennesaw State University’s American Democracy Project has been and remains a central partner since 2006.  In 2006, Dr. Carlton Usher accompanied eight students affiliated with the African American Male Initiatives at Kennesaw State University (KSUAAMI) to the first event held at D.M. Terrell High School in Atlanta.

After the successful event at Terrell High School, Dr. Usher met with several community organizers to explore the possibility of organizing another event with Kennesaw State University as a major participant. Consequently, with the support of Dr. Ralph Rascati, Dean of the University College, and other members of the American Democracy Project team, Dr. Usher initiated a strong and lasting partnership with AULYP. The AULYP consists of bright and focused young leaders with strong reputations in governance, community development, and entrepreneurship. We remain extremely proud go these future leaders.

Super Saturday 2008 featured opening remarks by Beverly Hall, the superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, a keynote by Georgia State Senator Vincent Fort whose tireless work includes countering mortgage and lending redlining and gentrification in the downtown Atlanta neighborhoods.  The mayoral panel moderated by WSBTV 2 reporter Tom Jones included the then

Super Saturday 2008: Candidate now Mayor Elect Kasim Reed, Dr. Carlton Usher and Kennesaw State University Students

Candidate and current mayor Kasim Reed, Atlanta City Council members Mary Norwood and Caesar Mitchell, and Jessie Spikes senior partner at McKenna Long and Aldridge

 

Super Saturday 2009 featured candidates Lisa Borders, Mary Norwood, Kasim Reed, Jessie Spikes and Glenn Thomas. Opening remarks were delivered by Atlanta Deputy Fire Chief Nishiyama Willis.

Super Saturday 2009: mayoral candidates Lisa Borders, Mary Norwood, Kasim Reed, Lisa Borders, Jessie Spikes and Glenn Thomas, Dr. Carlton Usher, Sherwin Murray.

 

With the City Council President Lisa Borders conceding in a very close race, and the new mayor Kasim Reed in place, we focused our Super Saturday 2010 on the gubernatorial primary. Unlike the past events planned for September, this day of civic engagement was slated for considering both major parties primaries for July 20, 2010.  A crowd of approximately 100 people heard Democrats DuBose Porter, David Poythress, Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, and Bill Bolton, as well as representatives of Democrat Carl Camon and Republican John Oxendine. The candidates discussed the challenges they believe the next governor should address. Most

Super Saturday 2010: Georgia Gubernatorial Debates, Grady High School Atlanta, Georgia

talked about the state of the economy, local issues such as transportation, water, and public safety. After a few opening remarks from several local political strategists and lawmakers, the audience experienced an awesome and heartfelt keynote address by labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond (he is currently running for the senate against incumbent John Isakson).  CBS news anchor Danielle Knox moderated the event and several news outlets interviewed the candidates before and after the debates. The coverage was extensive and Kennesaw and the American Democracy Project’s work in conjunction the AULYP remains one of the hallmark events leading up to the November election.

Georgia Gubernatorial candidates take questions from reporters.

Georgia Gubernatorial candidates take questions from reporters.

Georgia Gubernatorial candidates take questions from reporters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is it! Blitz Week at Rock the Vote

Post by Mike Kelly of Rock the Vote for the ADP blog.

This is it. We are down to the final days to register voters for the critical 2010 elections.

Voter registration deadlines start next Saturday and by Tuesday, October 5th, the window to register to vote will be closed in over half of the states in the country. (If you need to find a state’s voter registration deadline, please visit our interactive election center Electionland.)

That’s why we want to invite you to join our efforts to push online voter registration next week. It is Blitz Week at Rock the Vote!

You have your online voter registration tool and a community of people that need to have their voices heard in November. I hope you will make sure they are eligible to vote.

Here are two easy things you can do:

1. Send an email to your students. Through years of testing, we have found that the best messages are straightforward and simple. Let people know that the registration deadline is coming up (be precise about the date, if possible) and make sure they know that folks need to re-register at their current address if they have moved since the last time they registered. And, of course, include links to your voter registration tool.

2. Push the link to your voter registration tool on social networks like Facebook and Twitter . . . and urge your people to share the link to register their friends and family, too.

As always, you can check your progress, get your unique URL to use in emails and social network posts, get the code to put the widget on your website and more at this website.

If you have any questions, shoot us an email – voterregistration@rockthevote.com – and we’ll get you what you need.

_________________________________________

Electionland

We know you want to vote.  And to vote with confidence.  But maybe people yelling at each other at town hall meetings, negative ads and TV shout-fests aren’t getting you the information you need to cast an informed ballot in the 2010 elections.

Well, we’re here to help.  We helped create Electionland as a one-stop shop for the 2010 elections — the place where you can ask and answer questions on everything related to elections in Washington state.  You can make sure you are registered to vote before the voter registration deadline.  You can ask questions about voting as a student or what to do if you have recently moved.  You have access to folks with big brains about what’s on the ballot. Candidates and experts will answer your questions directly.

It is the place to ask questions, provide answers or make comments on anything and everything around the election.

From the Classroom to the Polling Site

ADP participant, Missouri Western State University, received a grant from the Election Assistance Commission to create a guide for creating service-learning student poll worker projects that are integrated into the classroom. This guide will be distributed throughout Missouri in the hopes that it will encourage academic institutions to engage their students in the 2010 midterm elections. The guide is called, “From the Classroom to the Polling Site: College Student Poll Worker Service Learning Project Manual.”

As part of a grant from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, colleges and universities throughout Missouri are being asked to participate in the College Student Poll Worker Service Learning Project. The focus is on encouraging students in your classrooms to serve as poll judges as part of a service learning class project designed to achieve two things: 1) enhance students’ understanding of the election process and value of their right to vote, and 2) increase the population of skilled poll workers at a time when the transition from paper to electronic registration and voting requires poll workers with technology talents.

Missouri has the opportunity to lead the nation in utilizing students via the Student Poll

Worker project to generate a pool of willing and able poll workers, and we encourage all colleges and universities in the state to participate. It’s easy. This manual will give professors and other education officials all the information they need to incorporate the College Student Poll Worker Service Learning Project into college and university courses. The manual addresses the following key content areas:

  1. Information about starting a College Student Poll Worker Service Learning Project on your campus.
  2. Curriculum modules to be included in any class.
  3. Ideas for working with your County Clerk or the Election Board official who oversees voting in your community.
  4. Evaluation instruments to measure outcomes related to student engagement.
  5. Ideas for recruiting students outside of the classroom for a service learning project.

All of the materials contained in this manual can be used as is or adapted for your classes. Although the guide is specific to Missouri, there are a lot of valuable and interesting approaches to involving college students in the midterm elections. Please visit this website to view the guide in its entirety.

Become a Partner with Rock the Vote for the Midterm Elections

Rock the Vote wants to partner with you on the largest, non-partisan voter registration drive in the history of a midterm election. We admire the work that your organization does every day to build community, engage volunteers and address critical needs. Our hope is that you – and community-based, non-profit organizations like yours – use those deep connections to ensure that the people you touch are registered to vote. And that we can help you do it.

In 2008, Rock the Vote and over 20,000 partners helped over 2 million people get registered to vote and it is critical that we continue this momentum in 2010. We have a free and easy-to-use online voter registration tool that makes it very simple to get voters on the rolls.  

You can sign up at www.rockthevote.com/partner to get started.  Once you do, you will get a unique URL that links to your voter registration tool and code to put it on your website.  The tool is simple, effective and can help you build your organization.  Here’s how it works:

  • Voters register using a secure, customizable registration widget and never have to leave your website to do it.  You will get a unique code that allows you to put a link or button that spawns an overlay of the tool on top of your website.
  • The step-by-step wizard guides users through the registration process in either English or Spanish and creates a PDF of the registration form that users print, sign and send to their Secretary of State.
  • You have instant access to all of the information users enter through your site so that you can easily track registration totals and communicate with your lists.
  • RTV hosts all partners’ tools for free and ensures that all data is transmitted to and through secure servers.
  • You can customize your tool by adding your logo to it, add users to your email and mobile lists, ask people to volunteer for your organization and learn more about applicants by customizing survey questions that appear at the end of the registration process.

There are a couple of ways for you to use the online voter registration tool effectively: (1) putting the widget on your website and (2) providing a link to your tool through email and social media pushes to your community – volunteers, clients, constituents, donors, etc.  We are eager to work with you, so let us know how we can help.

If you have any questions, please contact Eric Zoberman at ericz@rockthevote.com or 202-719-9915.  Thank you for your continuing role in bringing positive change to our communities.

You Can Do It, Too: The SUNY Fredonia Story

The SUNY Fredonia Story

By Caitlin Levesque, former student, SUNY Fredonia

SUNY Fredonia student volunteers get out the vote.

Two years ago, I was in the middle of my summer internship in Washington, D.C. at the same time Barack Obama became the Democratic front-runner for the 2008 Presidential election. It was at that moment, being in D.C., that I realized State University of New York (SUNY) Fredonia students needed to capitalize on this historic opportunity to become civically engaged; and I would be their cheerleader.

There were several obstacles that stood in my way: low voter turnout rate in the past, lack of interest in political issues and elections, high dissatisfaction with the government, and most importantly, an underlying sense of disenfranchisement amongst youth voters.

How we did it!

So, how did SUNY Fredonia register 1,065 new voters and have an 88% turnout rate on November 4th, 2008? I quickly realized that I was unable to transform our students’ perception on my own, and began to use my relationships with professors, student groups and, most importantly, my friends to help implement this non-partisan campaign. By weekly tabling, knocking on dorm room doors, invading classrooms, hosting open mic nights, and causing quite a ruckus, our team registered over a thousand students in just under five weeks.

Getting Students to the Polls

Then the biggest struggle began: how do we get these registered voters to the

Teach-in that helped students learn more about the issues on the ballot.

polls? By connecting with our local TV and radio stations, as well as newspapers we were able to put out ads that told students exactly where to go and when. Realizing how detrimental it would be to have a group of uninformed first-time voters heading to the polls, we decided to work with several students with expertise in the economy, environment, and foreign policy fields to develop three teach-ins discussing these areas.  Total turnout at these events exceeded 200 students.  Next we began to focus our time and

Uncle Sam and Abe Lincoln are enlisted to help get out the vote.

energy on planning for Election Day. From chalking polling information all over our campus’ concrete, to hanging banners directing people where to go to vote, to enlisting our own “Abe Lincoln” and “Uncle Sam” to invade dining halls, libraries and classrooms, we transformed the SUNY Fredonia campus. We were able to engage students and volunteers who finally understood the issues and saw the importance of young voter participation in the election. Most importantly, our efforts helped to flip our county from red to blue, putting Fredonia on the electoral map like never before.

What can you do?

In order to replicate SUNY Fredonia’s success, we need to advocate for strong civic programs in our colleges.  Studies show that first time voters make lifetime voters.  By advocating for youth turnout in and around campuses across our country for the 2010 Midterm elections, we can create a voter bloc that will be influential in the 2012 election and beyond. By understanding your audience, and educating yourself on issues that students can relate to; we can create a citizenry of youth voters and help keep our country on track.

If you’re looking for a way to get started on connecting with like-minded young people helping to promote civic engagement, check out some of these sites:

  • Civic Youth offers a wide range of statistics as well as State Election Laws
  • Rock the Vote allows student leaders to download toolkits to help start a voter registration campaign
  • On The Issues is a necessary tool If you are trying to inform your new voters on key issues that will encourage them to get to the polls

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