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

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

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, many of our campuses are working diligently to help educate students about the candidates and issues up for vote during the 2010 Midterm Elections so that they will make their voices heard. I want to showcase some of the notable projects taking place to get students to the polls. Below you will find a sampling of the amazing work taking place on ADP campuses all over the country.

Rhode Island College The American Democracy Project (ADP) at Rhode Island College, a campus initiative that promotes political engagement throughout the state, has entered into a partnership with NBC-10, the state’s leading local news station, to present a series of debates and forums to inform voters, support the election process, and encourage citizens to learn about the issues that shape the political agendas of the 2010 election season.

This is the first time that a Rhode Island higher education institution and a local television station have joined forces for election season coverage. The partnership will begin with co-sponsorship of a series of four debates, beginning with the Republican gubernatorial primary contest on Sept. 8, then a general election gubernatorial debate on Oct. 29, followed by both congressional contests broadcast on Oct. 30. Read more here.

University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh For the UW Oshkosh is using student interns to increase student engagement in the midterm elections, a strategy they used with a great deal of success in 2008. These students will help to mobilize their peers to become informed and then vote in the 2010 midterm elections and will earn academic credits through the Political Science department. Activities included in the internship include registering students to vote, organizing nonpartisan discussion forums on elections and issues, conducting polls of UW Oshkosh students, and modeling good civic behavior by teaching other students the value of civic engagement and democratic action. In addition, the UW Oshkosh website has information about the upcoming elections.  To read more about the UW Oshkosh approach, please visit this website.

William Paterson University The ADP group at William Paterson University is running a campaign called Youth Vote 2K10: No Vote, No Piece. The campaign will involve “Youth Vote Zap Teams” who will be “conducting youth voter education and registration outreach” around campus and in three Paterson, NJ area high schools.

According to the organizers, another aspect of the initiative will be to employ a “text-based “Youth Vote Facts” campaign that will disseminate important information regarding registration and absentee ballot application deadline along with facts about the power of the youth vote in NJ.” To read more about this effort, please visit this website.

Emporia State University We are excited in Kansas to finally have the ability to register to vote electronically. At Emporia State University (ESU) we will be searching for innovative ways to encourage our eligible students to register, become informed and vote.  Some of this is anticipated to expand both eCitizenship social networking and America’s Future Project initiatives in connection with the election.  In addition to participating in a national study where we will be sending email messages to many of our students, we are planning some events to jump start this provided our tentative plans do not conflict with the study.  The first is a Constitution Day celebration sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the Law Center, and ESU; it will be in our nicest venue on campus and features an invited speech and a voter registration drive.  The event should have a generous share of highly active members of the community.  We hope to inspire some first-year students to become involved in this event to ensure we are inclusive of those who just became eligible to vote.  We envision students bringing their laptops and having a good share of ESU laptops at the event.  The idea is to have students paired with members of the League of Women Voters to assist others in registering voters.  Hopefully, the students will be able to help some from the League who are not as technologically advanced and gain some measure of confidence so as to encourage classmates and friends to register as the semester unfolds.  These newest students are likely to be from a brand new first-year experience initiative.  Some of them will be part of the inaugural offering of a first-year experience course for undeclared students called Civic Engagement; others are likely to be from another new program for the first-year experience where an entire residence hall floor will be focused on civic engagement.  Ideally, getting these new students involved and potentially in leadership positions immediately will lead to an increasingly committed culture on our campus.  This is just the beginning of the Voter Preparation activities we envision.

Indiana University South Bend: Getting INFORMED Voters to the Polls The American Democracy Project at Indiana University South Bend is hosting a full range of candidate debates to allow students, and members of the local community, to see the candidates up close and personal and to hear the candidates talk about the issues voters care most about. Debates will include: county sheriff, county prosecutor, county council, and U.S. congress. We will host the St. Joseph County debates at the South Bend campus, the Elkhart County debates at our Elkhart campus, and the congressional debates at the local public television station. This list may be expanded to include statehouse, secretary of state, and school board races.

In addition, we are sponsoring a public forum on the referendum to add a property tax cap to the state constitution. The forum will feature speakers arguing both for and against the ballot initiative, allowing students and other Indiana voters to learn more about the issue so that they may cast an informed vote on Election Day. By bringing political debates to campus, we seek to foster student interest and knowledge about the issues and candidates on the 2010 midterm ballot. We are proud of our relationship with the local League of Women Voters and the local public television stations. Candidates now call us to ask that we include them in our debate schedule! This work to inform and engage students on the issues will be supplemented by campus-wide voter registration and mobilization campaigns in all classroom buildings and in the student housing complex. ADP students are committed to getting informed student voters to the polls this November! For more information, please visit this website.

Metropolitan State University The Metro State Votes 2010 banners are up in the skyway on the St. Paul campus, announcing the beginning of another important election season.  With new national regulations in place, Minnesota has implemented an early primary election date.  We encourage each member of the Metropolitan State University community to VOTE, and remind students and others to vote, in this year’s primary election on August 10th.

Beginning the first week in August, Metro State Votes 2010 will be promoting civic engagement events which will continue through general election day, November 2.  Upcoming events include a mock polling place,  round table conversations with candidates for state executive offices including: Secretary of State, State Auditor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General;  on-going voter registration, and in late October we will host a Minnesota Gubernatorial Debate!

More information about these events, co-sponsored by the Student Senate, CCBL, The American Democracy Project, Diversity Learning Task Force, Students for Social Change and University Activities Board, will be forthcoming!

Together we can continue Metropolitan State’s commitment to civic engagement by strengthening our ties to the communities we live in and by exercising our right to vote!

What are you going to do to make sure the voices of students are heard in the midterm elections? Leave a comment on our blog to share your story.

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