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The UD Center for Political Communication provides voting resources for students on National Voter Registration Day. (L to R): Olivia Feldman, UD senior and teaching assistant; Lindsay Hoffman, associate professor and associate director for the UD Center for Political Communication; Mandy Hamed, UD junior; and Maria Chudzik, UD junior
Article by Chris Kelley | Photos by Evan Krape
Balancing busy academic schedules with registering new voters is no easy feat, but for Amani Thurman and Gillian Williams — co-presidents of the University of Delaware’s student-led civic engagement initiative called Make It Count — the payoff of helping to add more than 1,600 students to voter rolls in 2019 alone has been worth it. Now, UD is receiving recognition for those student voter engagement efforts from two national organizations.
For achieving a student voting rate between 40 and 49 percent in the 2018 midterm election, the University was honored as a Gold Seal Campus by the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, a national initiative supporting campuses as they work to increase nonpartisan democratic engagement and full student voter participation. This marked a nearly 27 percent increase in UD student voter turnout.
“We are excited to honor the University of Delaware with an ALL IN Challenge gold seal in recognition of their intentional efforts to increase democratic engagement and full voter participation,” said Jennifer Domagal-Goldman, executive director of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. “More institutions like UD are changing culture on campus by institutionalizing nonpartisan democratic engagement efforts that are resulting in the incredible student voter turnout rates that we’ve seen across the country.”
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The student-led UD Make It Count campaign used TurboVote, supported by the Biden Institute, to register upwards of 400 students on National Voter Registration Day 2019.
Democracy Works, the nonpartisan nonprofit behind TurboVote — an online tool that helps students register to vote, track registration deadlines and request absentee ballots — announced that in 2019 UD placed within the top 10 of its 131 campus partners when it came to student voter engagement efforts. By partnering with the UD Center for Political Communication, the Biden Institute, the Student Government Association and several other registered student organizations, the Make It Count campaign used TurboVote to register upwards of 400 students on National Voter Registration Day.
Mike Ward, vice president of voter engagement at Democracy Works, congratulated Make It Count’s members for helping nearly 10 percent of UD’s undergraduate student body register to vote, request an absentee ballot or sign up for election reminders in 2019.
Williams attributes the notable engagement efforts to a series of campus-wide events organized by Make It Count members that were focused on fostering conversations about civic engagement and connecting students with voting resources.
“Make It Count is building a movement far greater than just our organization. We are mobilizing our peers to shift our campus culture,” said Williams, a senior studying public policy. “One day, being a Blue Hen will be synonymous with being an engaged member of the community.”
For Thurman, the recognition serves as motivation to push harder. “What does this mean for the University of Delaware as a whole?” said Thurman. “I would say this truly speaks to the possibility of achieving our campaign’s goal of having 100 percent of UD’s eligible students — and even faculty and staff — registered to vote.”
“We are so proud of our students for making this really remarkable change in voter registration and voter turnout,” said Lindsay Hoffman, associate director of the UD Center for Political Communication. “This national recognition wouldn’t be possible without a dedicated group of faculty, staff, administrators and students who are committed to increasing political and civic engagement at UD.”
Nationwide, student participation in elections has increased from the 2014 midterm election to the recent 2018 midterm election. According to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, an initiative of Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy and Higher Education, voter turnout at the more than 1,000 institutions participating in its study increased by 21 points from 19 to 40 percent. UD’s data reveals that voter turnout among UD students increased nearly 27 percent, from 14.8 percent in 2014 — 5 percent lower than the national average — to 41.6 percent in 2018, which is 2.5 percent higher than the national average.
Make It Count encourages students, staff and faculty to visit the UD TurboVote Portal to sign up to receive election reminders, get registered to vote and apply for absentee ballots.
The UD Make It Count campaign is a nonpartisan, student-run movement with a mission to increase voter registration and nonpartisan civic engagement across the University of Delaware campus and the State of Delaware through voter engagement drives, facilitated discourse and educational programming to create lifelong ambassadors for democratic involvement.
Article originally published on UDaily.