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Preparing Students to Vote in the Midterm Elections

By Cecilia M. Orphan, National Manager, American Democracy Project

Many university representatives are engaged in activities to prepare students to vote in the midterm elections. The midterm elections are scheduled for November 2nd, 2010. As is well know, it is very difficult to get students to the polls for state and local elections. A recent CIRCLE report found that only 15% of citizens age 18-29 voted in the recent special election for Massachusetts Senator. According to CIRCLE, “turnout in the 2009 Virginia and New Jersey Gubernatorial races was [also] poor (17% and 19%, respectively).” (Click here to read full CIRCLE report.)

What many students don’t recognize is that local and state elections often have more impact on their lives than federal elections. Students came out in large numbers for the 2008 presidential election, with almost 53% of 18-29 voting. This represented an 11% increase from the 2000 presidential election and speaks to the hard work taking place on ADP campuses to get students to the polls.

Tell me about your work. Currently I am soliciting stories from innovative campuses that are doing creative and interesting things to get students to the polls for the midterm elections. I would like to know what you are planning to do. I am going to write a blog post to showcase your efforts.  I will also create a webpage on the ADP website with a list of these activities. This is an opportunity to share the important work that you’re doing.

If you’d some ideas about how to engage students in and educate them about the midterm elections, consider purchasing a copy of the American Democracy Project’s Electoral Voices: Engaging College Students in Elections monograph on the AASCU book store website.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hi Cecilia,

    We met briefly at the last ADP mtg in Providence in June. FYI, I’m running a student voter education and turnout campaign called “Project 10” here at Stetson for this year’s mid-term election. Below is info I sent local journalists about the project just yesterday. Feel free to call or email me with any questions.

    Paul Lachelier

    This semester, I’m teaching a course titled “Community Organizing for Social Change” through which 15 Stetson students and I are running an unusual get-out-the-vote campaign for this year’s election called “Project 10.” Project 10 is partly a field experiment testing whether one-on-one contact methods raise student turnout, partly a survey measuring whether we can improve student voter knowledge, partly a method for teaching students community organizing (i.e., how to move people to action, and make history/social change), and partly a component of a larger effort to put Stetson students on the political map in what is, arguably, the most important place in the world, politically (see the op-ed below for more on this argument).

    Here are some of the wider significances of Project 10:

    1) In political and academic circles, there is considerable concern about young Americans’ political disengagement. Young Americans may well be more civic than their predecessors, but they are less political. This makes what universities do to nurture political citizenship among young Americans vitally important to the future of American democracy.

    2) Project 10 is part of a recent academic trend to use social science method (experimental method) to measure the actual effectiveness of different voter turnout methods. Such research has direct significance for issue and candidate campaigns, which have traditionally relied on guesswork based on experience rather than proven science in deciding what methods to use to get out the vote.

    3) Locally, Project 10 — which is focused on this year’s mid-term election (the ’10’ is for 2010) is part of a longer-term effort I’m spearheading to put Stetson students on the political map by getting more of them to vote, and to vote on campus rather than back home so as to strengthen their collective voice. The ultimate goal is to make Stetson a national model for nurturing political citizenship among college students, and young Americans more generally.

    You can find out more about Project 10, and the course through which I’m running Project 10, at our developing website/wiki:

    Paul Lachelier
    Assistant Professor
    215 Davis Hall
    Dept. of Sociology & Anthropology
    Stetson University
    Cell: 617-905-5353


    October 7, 2010

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  1. Making Sure Student Voices are Heard in the Midterm Elections: What ADP Campuses are Doing «

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