With midterm elections approaching, there is once again a call for voter registration and participation.
Since youth ages 18 to 29-years-old in particular have the lowest voting turnout (less than 50%) according to estimates reported by The New York Times, some colleges have taken on the responsibility of promoting student voter registration.
This year, Capital’s own office of Student and Community Engagement has decided to participate in an effort to promote voter turnout among its students, in collaboration with the Ohio Athletic Conference through the ALL IN Campus Democracy challenge, as well as other local organizations.
The ALL IN Campus Democracy challenge is a nonpartisan project whose mission is to raise turnout for the youth vote in partnership with universities across the country.
The ALL IN group has noticed a sharp decline in youth turnout for midterm elections since the early 1970s, even while presidential election turnout has stayed relatively the same. The project seeks to provide voter education, especially on what it takes to actually register to vote, ensuring that young voters have a chance at participating and are motivated to do so.
Tristen Davis, associate director of Student and Community Engagement, summarized the initiative.
The SCE put on several events to encourage registration for the November 2 election, coordinated by Davis and a task force consisting of local partners, such as the Columbus branch of the League of Women Voters, as well as Capital professors.
The League gave a training session on how to register to vote, as well as a mock-debate in order to understand the format of debate for candidates running for office.
Additionally, student organizations on campus were able to compete with one another to register other students to vote, with the organization registering the most voters winning a catered meal at their next meeting.
The SCE also put out tips on registration and voting on Instagram, such as the fact that voters have 30 days to register before the election they wish to vote in.
Davis explained that the process has not been easy, noting that the events have not gained as much engagement as was desired. Though, she believes that it isn’t surprising, given the ongoing pandemic and the fact that this program had not been conducted at Capital before.
Another concern has been that many people do not care about local elections, choosing instead to focus on large-scale elections, such as the presidential election. However, she does not believe local elections as a waste, and is in fact passionate about voting at all levels of government.
Given the struggle it took for Black Americans and women to even gain access to the ballot, Davis feels that it is critical to encourage everyone take advantage of this right that was so hard-won. She also argued that there is a civil responsibility to make societal changes and that voting is the way to make such changes possible.
When asked what she would say to those skeptical that voting can affect real change, Davis said, “You just have to believe that your vote matters. It might take a long time for change to happen, but eventually it’s going to happen because change is inevitable.”
There is a hope that as Capital continues to participate in the challenge, more engagement will come and greater student participation in the democratic process will come as a result.