Student Spotlight: Improving Student Voting at MTSU
By Brandon Loso, Sophomore, Middle Tennessee State University
Hello, fellow ADP members! We wanted to inform you of some of the projects that the American Democracy Project students at Middle Tennessee State University have been working on this year. For those of you who may be unaware of the capacity and involvement of students at MTSU, we are the largest undergraduate university in the state of Tennessee, with approximately 26,000 undergraduates in the student body. Our ADP at MTSU consists of both faculty and students, and some of our ADP students earn academic credit doing experiential learning practica in civic learning and engagement during the academic year. We are a comparatively small group, but we make some big contributions on campus!
With the presidential elections coming up this year — Tennessee participates in Super Tuesday primary this week, March 6, 2012 — ADP has been and is continuing to work to educate and encourage our MTSU students to voice their opinions in national, state, and local elections. Members of our own ADP MTSU faculty are moderating League of Women Voters candidate fora for city, county, and state elections this spring and summer, toward that very end. As an educational device for our incoming students, we ADP MTSU students are in the process of creating a voter education seminar for new MTSU students, as well as a pamphlet to be included in the new student orientation packet for first-year students who enter the university starting this summer. Our flyer contains basic information about how to get registered to participate in summer and fall ballots, to be ready to vote in the upcoming city, county, state, and national elections.
Another important way in which ADP MTSU students are involved in bettering the election process for our students is partnering with the local election commission and with campus officials to develop a polling location on our campus— we hope — as a valuable resource for university students residing in dorms and campus apartments and in surrounding neighborhoods. Believe it or not, MTSU has not ever had an on-campus or adjacent-to-campus polling site, which is difficult to understand given the size of our university population. ADP has been lobbying to develop an on-campus polling location for quite some time. We persevere in that effort.
We are doing on-campus research this spring that we think will support and further our position for an on-campus voting site with both the election commission and our university administration. Additionally, we think our research will assist in the effort to increase the number of students who are registered voters.
With help from faculty from the MTSU Poll (http://mtsusurveygroup.org/), ADP students have developed a survey to ask our student body about registration, voter participation, polling location, and voting process. Our survey is under way all across our campus right now, and we hope to present the results of the study at the American Democracy Project annual meeting in San Antonio in June.
The survey is quite simple. We naturally ask demographic basics of our respondents, including age, gender, and class at MTSU. The survey itself consists of ten questions pertaining to students’ personal registration and voting habits and their opinions about the voting process. We are anxious to secure a representative sample that will properly reflect the percentage of our student community currently registered to vote. We also hope to determine, so that we can share with the local county election commission, the percentage of the student population that does vote, or intends to vote, right here in our own university town — vs. the percentage of our school that travels to other in-state counties to vote or that participates in out-of-state voting. (View MTSU’s Voting Survey here.)
To examine the impacts of home and peers, the survey inquires of each respondent about his or her culture of voting, whether family members vote and whether friends do. Our survey additionally asks students for self-evaluation on how important voting in major elections is to them personally. We believe that if we can pinpoint the average numbers of students who feel voting is an important aspect of their civic life, but are restricted in voting due to limited access or lack of resources as college students, we will have the statistical support we need to work more productively with our campus administration and with the local election commission to develop improved voting options for our student body.
As you can see, MTSU’s American Democracy Project is working to make a difference for our school and the involvement on campus. We are very excited to see how all of our efforts pan out over the next several months, and we’re very anxious to see you all in San Antonio, Texas, really soon!
Learn more about ADP at MTSU here.
About Brandon Loso
Hey, fellow American Democracy Project students! My name is Brandon Loso. I am a sophomore at Middle Tennessee State University from Bell Buckle, Tennessee. I am currently majoring in Mass Communications of Advertising and Public Relations in the Recording Industry, and minoring in Business Administration. Throughout my four semesters at MTSU I have become very involved in student organizations and have been given the opportunity to hold leadership positions in several. I am currently the American Democracy Project Student Org Vice President, Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity Community Service Chairman, Up ‘Til Dawn for St. Jude’s Team Leader, and member of the Student Government Association Homecoming Committee.