It’s National Voter Registration Day today and we’re celebrating by preparing for the Big Ten Voting Challenge — a competition between the Big Ten institutions to promote civic engagement by mobilizing voter registration and turnout.
But before students can get to the polls this November, they’ll have to register to vote.
In honor of National Voter Registration Day, students can register at Library Mall from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and two other campus locations in an effort to register a maximum number of students.
The Morgridge Center for Public Service is leading the effort to get UW-Madison the highest and most improved voter turnout rate — and hopefully win a trophy — but it isn’t easy. Luckily, the Morgridge Center has two Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP) Fellows to lead voter registration initiatives.
CEEP fellows work with nonpartisan organizations and campus student groups to educate and engage student voters. CEEP fellows are active across the country, especially in swing states. At UW-Madison, CEEP fellows are working alongside Andrew Goodman Foundation Vote Everywhere Ambassadors, ASM’s Vote Coordinator and the Big Ten Voting Challenge Intern, among other students
Caitlin Attaway is a CEEP fellow and junior majoring in political science and history with an African studies certificate. Emily Hutchins is also a CEEP fellow studying politics and environmental studies.
Attaway and Hutchins have been organizing events to get people registered to vote – especially students, who might be confused about voting and registration.
“A lot of people in their communities feel like they don’t really have a voice and a really easy way to impact your community is voting for your local representatives,” said Attaway. “Being able to elect your local representatives – that impacts your individual daily life.”
Our CEEP fellows have already headed registration efforts at the student organization fair, the public service fair and at ASM’s bus pass distribution. They’ll also be registering voters at Rheta’s dining halls this month.
Voter turnout for people under age 30 is historically low compared to older populations, especially in midterm elections. Voter turnout rates on university campuses across the country were at a mere 19 percent in 2014, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.
“It’s our right and also our duty to be engaged citizens,” said Hutchins. “When we aren’t engaged and holding elected officials accountable we lose out on the ability to shape the political process. Voting is a huge way to change policy and hold officials accountable.”
Attaway added that registering to vote is, in itself, a form of civic duty. She said that it’s CEEP’s goal to get young voters registered so that they can establish a lifelong habit early on.
Attaway and Hutchins are actively working to get people registered to vote until Oct. 17 – the deadline for early registration. They’ll then switch their focus to voter education – informing voters of where and when they can vote. They’ll also be handing out candidate guides to help voters learn more about candidates and their platforms.
The Morgridge Center supports learning around voter engagement and education at UW. They have also collaborated with several local and national initiatives – like CEEP – to further this effort.