WHY NON-PARTISAN CANDIDATE GUIDES MATTER AND HOW TO USE THEM TO ENGAGE YOUR CAMPUS | Information from our friends at the Campus Election Engagement Project
When students don’t vote, it’s often because they feel they don’t know where the candidates stand.
The national nonpartisan Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP) has created 2014 guides for many states, including running draft versions by key stakeholders, like campus Young Democrats and Young Republicans. Here are some ways to distribute them—or any others you feel that are useful:
- Encourage your student newspaper to use them as a starting point for their election coverage, highlighting the impact candidate positions can make in student lives. Students may not read outside papers, alas, but they do read the campus paper, and if the paper makes the election salient, there’s a far greater likelihood that students will participate. As discussed in our election engagement guide for campus newspapers, they can do a huge amount to cover the candidates and their actual stands. We’d be delighted if they used our guide as a start, either elaborating on it or printing as an insert, as various schools have done, like Virginia’s James Madison University. And the earlier you get the guides to the student paper, the more likely they’ll be able to help galvanize their engagement.
- Distribute the guides through all-campus email, or print them and put them in students’ physical mailboxes. As mentioned, Viterbo printed copies for all their students. Virginia’s James Madison University ran them as an insert in student paper. If you can find a way to print them and hand them out, they can be an excellent starting-point for campus conversations. Or you can send them out electronically and link to them on your school’s election-related website.
- Use them to help spark discussions in classrooms and residence halls.
- Think big: Blow them up in posters large enough to be visible to passing students. Display in high-traffic areas of the student union, classroom buildings, or residence halls. Lots of schools did this in 2012 and 2013.
- Create your own nonpartisan guides to down-ballot races, like Secretary of State, Attorney General, Congressional and local legislative races, and local and statewide initiatives. Have students draw up these guides under the supervision of political science, communications, or honors faculty, or have the faculty create them. Distribute them in the campus, community, and online as you would the CEEP guides.
- If your local League of Women Voters is creating guides, or any other nonpartisan groups, promote and distribute them as well. Direct students to some of the websites we use to put them together, like Votesmart.org, Vote411.org, OntheIssues.org, FactCheck.org, Politifact.com, Create reflection in any way you can.
One note on categories which we’ve marked Answer Unknown. These are areas where we simply couldn’t find an answer for one of the candidates, sometimes because their opponent had the chance to vote on a particular issue and they didn’t. But you can still be proactive and ask candidates yourselves, or ask your campus newspaper to do so. And if you do get an answer please let your state CEEP staffer know, so they can update the guides for the other schools in your state.