Initial Curator: Verdis L. Robinson
Engage the Election was a direct response by Campus Compact to engage community colleges in leveraging the midterm elections in 2018. Its goal was to create wide-reaching electoral engagement opportunities for community college students, many of whom are first-generation, low-income, and students of color. The project, which was made possible by Young Invincibles and the Students Learn Students Vote (SLSV) coalition, was intended to produce ideas, principles, and practices for effective electoral engagement that take into deep consideration the unique opportunities and challenges presented on community college campuses and that reflect of their special ties to the community.
Understand civic power and build capacity on campus
In his book, You’re More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen, Eric Liu, the founder and CEO of Citizen University, argues that literacy in power is essential to making democracy work. Most people would agree that civic empowerment is essential to a healthy democracy. In order to effectively prepare for voter engagement, basic knowledge of power is recommended. How do people learn to use their power to make change?
The following animated video is a good summation of power and how power impacts our democracy: https://www.ted.com/talks/eric_liu_how_to_understand_power
What Is Power?
- Definition: the ability to make others do what you would want them to do
- Civic power: macro-scale exercise of power to influence community –distinguished from other kinds, like interpersonal or intraorganizational
- What forms civic power takes – state action, wealth, votes, crowds, ideas, information, culture, social norms, celebrity/charisma
- Why people avoid this topic
- Why avoiding it assures you will be acted upon rather than acting
- The great challenge in political and civic life today is that knowledge of power is monopolized – we need to re-democratize democracy
Power in Civic Life
- Who has it: the demographics of economic, political and social power
- Why that is: how power perpetuates itself
- Who is using power for and against your interests/beliefs right now?
- How people exercise civic power: persuasion, compulsion, framing
- How those without civic power attain it: persuasion, compulsion, framing
Becoming Literate in Power: Values, Systems, Skills
- Values: norms and ethical purposes. The essence of any winning narrative.
- Systems: representative government, the market, family, civil society, the media and popular culture, the natural environment. See systems as systems.
- Understand the behavior of these systems and how to activate them.
- Skills: how to organize, mobilize, argue, negotiate, strategize, tell story.
- Each dimension has certain laws and patterns to master
- Fluency in these three dimensions = being able to read and write power
In this video, Eric Liu delivers a lecture at Columbia University, entitled: “Teaching Civic Power,” and unpacks his equation: Power + Character = Citizenship: https://youtu.be/t0WQhLmdVrk
Example Exercise or Assignment for the Classroom
Write a narrative from your community’s future. It can be dated one or five or ten years out. Write it as a case study that looks back at how your cause, the change you were looking for in your community, succeeded. Describe the values and sense of moral purpose you activated in others. Recount how you engaged the various systems of government and marketplace and community institutions and media. Catalog the skills that you had to develop – advocating, negotiating, navigating – to change the frame of the possible and to overcome resistance. For more information, visit: https://www.citizenuniversity.us/
Sign up for NSLVE to learn about student voter registration, voting rates, and electoral engagement on your campus
What is NSLVE?
The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) offers colleges and universities an opportunity to learn their student registration and voting rates and, for interested campuses, a closer examination of their campus climate for political learning and engagement and correlations between specific student learning experiences and voting.
Value of NSLVE
IDHE Reports address pressing issues in democracy and in higher education. The reports offer valuable insights for leaders and educators who are committed to improving colleges students’ political learning and engagement.
Institutions that participate in NSLVE receive detailed reports with their campus data. These reports represent an opportunity for institutions to reflect and act on the institutional factors and campus climates that can affect student voting rates and political engagement more broadly.
Additionally, this report, based on surveys and conversations with multiple institutions, can suggest next steps like convening dialogues, creating task forces, sharing with students, engaging faculty, and more.
Top 5 reasons to sign up for NSLVE:
- It’s FREE.
- It’s easy – not a survey, no data collection – all you need to do is get the form signed.
- It’s completely protective of student privacy. They work with de-identified student records only.
- Over 1,000 campuses nationwide participate including over 290 community colleges (and it’s growing).
- Show the impact of your work!
For more information, visit the NSLVE webpage: https://idhe.tufts.edu/nslve
Identify and remove barriers to student voting
On community college campuses, impactful electoral engagement requires being inclusive and infusing equity into efforts. In addition to preparing for including those not eligible to vote such as those previously incarcerated/on parole, students who are not yet 18 and dual-enrolled students, and those not naturalized or undocumented students. Additionally, barriers must be removed to make way for full participation.
From Election Imperatives:
Remove barriers to student voting.
Link voter registration to existing structures on campus, including orientation programming, registering for classes, and obtaining student IDs. Work with local officials to facilitate student voting processes. Establish an on-campus polling location. Seek legal support if students face barriers to voting due to restrictive voter identification laws or cumbersome residency requirements.
Barriers to Student Voting
During legislative sessions, many state legislatures enact, and consider reforms that can affect the ability of students to register and vote. Some efforts target student voters directly, but most make broader changes that could nonetheless fall hard on student voters. Campus administrators and student leaders should contact local elections officials to check for updates to rules and policies in the following areas. Being mindful of these barriers locals can inform planning to combat and/or counteract them.
According to Campus Vote Project, barriers to student voting include:
- Direct Limitations on Student Voting
- Strict Voter ID Requirements
- Limiting Third-Party Voter Registration Opportunities
- Cutting Early Voting Options
- Eliminating same-day or Election Day Registration
Seven Key Ways to Act
Another great resource comes from Campus Election Engagement Project and their master road map which provides seven ways that help students navigate through the ever-changing barriers to voting. Visit https://campuselect.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/7-Key-Ways-to-Engage-Your-Campus.pdf for the full resource.
- Democracy Matters: A Guide to Non-Statutory Barriers to Voting
- NAACP’s Elections Protection Resources. https://naacp.org/find-resources/know-your-rights/democracy-voting
Convert challenges with community college student voting into opportunities
Understanding the challenges
Taking an asset approach to voter engagement is essential for community college efforts. Understanding the challenges is one step but converting them to opportunities must be the next step for effective and impactful engagement.
Top Six Challenges to Community College Student Voting:
- More time in the local community than on the college campus
- How to ensure non-partisan efforts? (Budgets are dependant on it)
- What about those on a community college campus who cannot vote?
- Combating historical and institutional marginalization of students and students of color
- No time to vote—in class or at work
- Process is mystifying—educational opportunity to bring clarity to voting and make it local.
The following are reflections from engaged community college professionals on the unique challenges to community college voter engagement:
“At least two-thirds of our students work at least part-time & many have family responsibilities. As this is not a residential learning environment, it is difficult to get attendance at events outside of regular school hours. This dynamic, in fact, caused us to shelve ideas for debate watching parties as the debates all started at 8pm, a time when few students are willing to come back to campus.”
-David Price, Santa Fe College, FL
“I believe the biggest challenge is student apathy and misunderstanding. This year through the feedback survey process I learned that students do not see the connection between the common good, the needs of the community, and our political leadership. In part, this is fueled by a disassociation that has grown stronger as politics in Washington grow more polarizing – with campaigns built on negative ads and fake news.”
-Diane McMahon, Allegany College of Maryland, MD
“Our campus has a large number of international students and students that aren’t citizens. We did not want to exclude them from any events. It was a challenge to come up with meaningful experiences for them as well.”
-Tara Karaim, Johnson County Community College, KS
“Another challenge is the mission of the community college. Because they are not research institutions, community colleges have more responsibility to the market and satisfying regional workforce demands when compared to four-year institutions. In some states, funding is even linked to programs that prepare students for careers in the local workforce. This can place a strain on institutional priorities, and civic engagement and education, although considered very important, is not always linked to market-oriented efforts.”
-Joseph Scanlon, Monroe Community College, NY
Explore the opportunities
In taking into account the unique challenges with an asset lens requires action toward converting challenges into opportunities for maximum impact.
Top Six Opportunities in Community College Electoral Engagement:
- More opportunity for local engagement—family, neighbors
- More opportunity for local candidate visits and engagement
- More opportunity for year-round engagement and not every four years- voting habit and culture on campus- constant reminders of its importance and relevance to its direct impact.
- Engaging those who can’t vote using inclusive practices and opportunities extending and advancing democracy.
- Opportunity do stop-in announcements- events, registration, inspiration
The following are reflections from engaged community college professionals on the unique opportunities of community college voter engagement:
“Community colleges tend to serve populations counted as the most underprivileged and under-represented in American politics today. As such, we have amazing potential to reduce the disparities in political voice and participation. We reach young adults during their formative years and have a unique opportunity to provide interventions that would set otherwise apolitical students on a life trajectory toward being engaged in their political system. I cannot think of another institution with this kind of potential to strengthen democracy!”
-Lisa Lawrason, Delta College, MI
“The 2008 election saw record-breaking turnout for young people in a presidential election, but subsequent elections saw a decline in those numbers. How can we sustain youth political participation from election to election? Getting individuals to the polls, especially youth, is a sign that democratic government works. Voting can also have the goal of social change. After voting, the individual might feel more connected to the political system. This feeling can lead to more involvement, such as contacting officials, participating in rallies, or running for local office. We see all of these goals as interrelated and necessary for a comprehensive program on voting and political participation towards a thriving democracy. Because of KCC’s student body composition (63% non-white and many of them receiving state and federal financial aid), this is a segment of the population that we seek to empower and engage in the political process so that it can be more reflective of their needs and challenges.”
-Helen-Margaret Nasser, CUNY Kingsborough Community College, NY
“We are the community. We are Democracy’s colleges. The diversity of our campuses and the new Americans in our midst make us the best place to learn and practice democracy.”
-David Mcmahon, Kirkwood Community College, IA
“Community colleges have the greatest opportunity to address the ‘civic opportunity gap’ by working to get all students interested in political engagement. This can happen by creating opportunities to recognize their passions, as well as providing ways for them to make connections in curricular and co-curricular settings with these passions. Once students make the connection between the personal and the political, they will realize the importance of electoral engagement. And, with time, they will use the opportunity to “get involved” as a way to bring about change through activism and advocacy.”
-Patty Robinson, College of the Canyons, CA
Use the SLSV Coalition's checklist as a guide
The SLSV Coalition is a diverse group of local, state, and national organizations dedicated to increasing student voter participation and civic engagement. The SLSV Checklist is an easy, four-step process to integrate democratic engagement into campus culture:
- LEAD: Ensure a person is appointed by a respected campus leader to lead your student democratic engagement programs.
- ENGAGE: Convene a meeting of relevant administrators from student affairs, academics affairs, and government relations, as well as faculty and student leadership to discuss a campus-wide effort to increase civic learning and democratic participation.
- ASSESS: Measure your campus voting rate.
- PLAN: Draft and submit a written action plan for increasing your campus-wide democratic engagement that will be evaluated post-election.
Implementing the Checklist on community college campuses
LEAD: Ensure a person is appointed by a respected campus leader to lead your student democratic engagement programs
On most community college campuses, we have found that faculty lead this work and, more specifically, faculty in the social sciences- history, political science, and sociology due to their fields and interests. However, we have also seen directors of service and community-based learning, and student affairs professionals. To avoid burn out and promote equity, this role should be in rotation and not limited to those listed above.
On community college campuses, it is important for the leader to be more permanent than temporary and not transient for sustainable efforts. Therefore, community college students are not recommended to be the Lead in these efforts.
In addition to faculty and staff roles mentioned, we also suggest the following for consideration:
- Faculty in other disciplines than the social sciences, especially tenure-track
- Government relations directors/liaisons
- Student club advisors
- Student government advisors
Whoever is the lead must be able to lead non-partisan efforts with an equity lens.
ENGAGE: Convene a meeting of relevant administrators from student affairs, academics affairs, and government relations, as well as faculty and student leadership to discuss a campus-wide effort to increase civic learning and democratic participatiom
From Election Imperatives:
Involve faculty across disciplines in elections.
Bolster faculty-student relationships and interactions by encouraging faculty across all academic departments to work with students on election or policy questions, in the classroom and beyond. Use clubs connected to the disciplines, such as the Engineering Society or the Chemistry Club, as venues for discussion. Have faculty in class remind students to register and vote.
- Study on the Effectiveness of Faculty Members reminding Students to Vote
- Politics 365: Fostering Campus Climates for Student Political Learning & Engagement (Book Chapter)
From Election Imperatives:
Establish a permanent and inclusive coalition to improve the climate for learning and participation.
Shift the paradigm away from focusing solely on voting. Instead, pursue deeper improvements to the underlying culture, structures, and behaviors on campus to cultivate students who identify themselves as active and informed stewards of a stronger democracy. Recruit a group that reflects diversity in terms of position on campus, tenure at the institution, field of expertise, social identity, political perspective, and lived experience. Maintain the coalition beyond the election season.
On community colleges, consider who should be at the table (including community partners):
- Consistent student leadership—PTK officers, student government
- Must achieve a balance for institutional buy-in, as well as even distribution of effort. This also will help prevent duplication of efforts and competition—reach, resources, space, and outreach
- Garner resources for greater impact and reach
- Government relations—in compliance with campus policies and relationships, public relations as media attention is very possible
Do your homework. Research community, local, and regional partners for support and resources. Campuses have utilized:
- Andrew Goodman Foundation
- APIA Vote
- Black Youth Vote
- Campus Election Engagement Project
- Campus Vote Project
- League of Women Voters
- Student PIRGS
- Vote Latino
ASSESS: Measure your campus voting rate
While event attendance and registration numbers are typical measurements that can be somewhat useful, NSLVE data is even better and can really and accurately measure electoral engagement. We recommend being a part of the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE).
From Election Imperatives:
Reflect on past elections and reimagine the next election.
Start at the top and convene a small group of administrative, faculty, and student leaders. Reflect on the campus’ political climate and activities in past elections. Reimagine the next election season as an opportunity to bridge differences; strengthen community and inclusion; improve political discourse; cultivate student activism, leadership, and collaboration; make political learning more pervasive; and encourage informed participation in democracy.
- CIRCLE’s RAYSE– Reaching All Youth Strengthens Engagement tool
2012 and 2016 NSLVE reports of Campus Compact Community College members (Courtesy of SLSV Coalition):
- Anne Arundel Community College, MD
- Arapahoe Community College, CO
- Berkeley City College, CA
- College of the Canyons, CA
- Community College of Allegheny College, PA
- Heartland Community College, IL
- Madison Area Technical College, WI
- Mesa Community College, AZ
- Miami Dade College, FL
- Middlesex Community College, MA
- North Shore Community College, MA
- Raritan Valley Community College, NJ
- Scottsdale Community College, AZ
PLAN: Draft and submit a written action plan for increasing your campus-wide democratic engagement that will be evaluated post-election
Complete Campus Compact’s Civic Action Plans and make democratic engagement a key part of your overall campus plan. In addition to this and the resources on the first page of the preparation section. Consider Campus Election Engagement Project’s Campus Election Engagement Assessment.
Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP) developed this assessment to identify which nonpartisan election engagement practices currently take place on your campus and which can be usefully added. Campuses are encouraged to use the assessment to develop and evaluate institutional election engagement plans. Additionally, CEEP staff are eager to provide campuses with tools, resources, and strategies to support election engagement efforts.
For more information, visit campuselect.org/2019-campus-election-engagement-assessment.
Conduct training sessions for voter registration on campus
From Election Imperatives:
Invest in the right kind of training.
Invest time and resources to train coalition members, students, and staff working on election activities on behalf of the institution in the arts of intergroup communications, controversial issue discussions, and collaboration. Rethink common tasks such as setting up voter registration tables so that they are intentionally staffed by volunteers who reflect the diversity of the campus. Encourage students to work collaboratively across differences of social identity, political perspective, and lived experiences; strategically cluster trained volunteers.
Conduct Training Sessions for Voter Registration on Campus
For successful voter registration efforts, training is essential. It is recommended that anyone who participates in voter registration drives is trained for effectiveness and to ensure nonpartisan efforts. The following training materials are recommended resources that can be adapted to your needs and college community:
“In a three-day period in October 2018, 423 students registered to vote. 277 of them were in one day. The greatest factor that contributed to that success is our campus’ ongoing relationship with the registrars from the League of Women Voters.”
-Sharon Wettengel, Tarrant County College-Southeast Campus, TX
Participate in National Voter Registration Day
Organized by Nonprofit Vote, National Voter Registration Day is a national holiday held on the fourth Tuesday of September, in which volunteers, campuses, and organizations from all over the country “hit the streets” in a single day of coordinated voter registration efforts. The goal of NVRD is to create broad awareness of voter registration opportunities and to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to vote. Leveraging NVRD has proven effective in campus voter registration efforts.
NVRD has a collection of resources to help organize events and activities leading up to National Voter Registration Day including an organizer toolkit for running successful drives, a communications toolkit for promoting NVRD, training webinars, press, and social media materials including swag: https://nationalvoterregistrationday.org/partner-tools/
Employ best practices for registering students on community college campuses
- Leverage campus Events to promote voter registration
- Take advantage of every student-led convening opportunity to conduct voter registration drives. These can include:
- Constitution and Citizenship Day
- College orientation
- Campus life fairs
- Student government and student club events and activities
- Leverage the community college student’s connections with the local community and their neighborhoods for voter registration- train to turn students into voting ambassadors.
- Encourage faculty to adopt voter registration drives as service-learning projects.
Develop informed voters through candidate and issues forums
From Election Imperatives:
Develop informed voters.
Offer courses, teach-ins, short modules in classes, and stand-alone opportunities to teach the history and current state of voting —including rules regarding domicile—in the United States. Purchase or borrow voting machines and create sample ballots and set up opportunities for students to learn the process. Use election issues to teach fact-checking and online media literacy.
Hosting Candidate and Issue Forums:
Candidate forums are events held on your college campus wherein candidates for a particular electoral race are brought together to discuss or debate issues of concern to the community and to educate and court potential voters.
Election-issue forums are typically designed to address a topic of interest to the community and of importance in an upcoming election. Presenters at election-issue forums can be college students, faculty, staff, community members, or outside experts.
Five Strategies for Successful Forums
- Hold forums at multiple times throughout the year. Before and after elections, keep engaging students with candidates, elected officials, and issues regularly for increased engagement.
- Involve students at every stage. Engage students as partners and organizers, not just recipients or beneficiaries.
- Make forums accessible. Hold in different locations on campus, locations in the community (such as libraries, community centers, churches). Additionally, hold forums during the day as well as evening, and even during class times to increase accessibility for community college students.
- Offer credit and/or extra credit. Ask faculty to offer class credit or extra credit for attending and reflecting on the experience. Develop assignments around the forums that involve critical thinking and analysis.
- Promote multiple ways of engagement in the forum. Record forums to accommodate community college students and allow viewing at their convenience. Additionally, partner with local TV and radio stations to broadcast the forum. Also, create a live Twitter feed and use social media to have interactive discussions and dialogues.
The wide range of campus stakeholders enabled Engaging the Election participants the ability to reach more students and link with community-based organizations. This level of outreach may not have been feasible if the efforts were tied to merely one group. Additionally, printed material displayed throughout campus, rather than a large digital presence, provided surprisingly strong results and increased awareness of candidates and issues.”
-J. Gabe Estill, Wright College, IL
Remove the mystery of voting for community college students
One barrier to student voting is that many students are new to voting and/or not aware of the process for various reasons.
“There are many misperceptions and without deep dialogue and critical thinking focusing on democratic education, I do not see this issue resolving. Just as students need driver education classes to learn how to drive – I believe they also need democratic learning and engagement classes to learn how to support and operate our democracy. It is something that is not taught and needs to be more deeply embedded in learning processes.”
-Dr. Diana McMahon, Allegany College of Maryland
Be Sure to Engage and Educate students on:
- The Ballot- what to expect on the ballot before they get to the polls.
- Polling locations- how to find out what their polling location is.
- What to expect- dialogue about experiences of what to expect when they do go to cast their vote to remove some of the anxiety of the unknown.
Four Ways to Demystify Voting
- Mock vote experience- host a voting simulation on campus. http://www.tri-c.edu/news-and-events/news/voting-its-not-just-a-right-its-an-experience.html
- Partnering with non-profit issue-based organizations to engage students or table- Net Impact, Southern Poverty Law Center, League of Women Voters
- Hosting Democracy Days Event on Campus- poster session- candidates, issues, ballot initiatives
- Leveraging Constitution and Citizenship Day to Promote Voter Education and Engagement.
Employ deliberative dialogues to talk politics on campus and in communities
Hosting campus conversations about your NSLVE voting reports is a beginning. Additionally, employing deliberative dialogue techniques like National Issues Forums can voter education and engagement efforts on campus.
From Election Imperatives:
Talk politics across campus.
Use NSLVE data, electoral controversies, policy issues, social conflicts, and campus concerns to increase and improve skills in intergroup and controversial issue discussions, and to reinforce norms of shared responsibility, inclusion, and free expression. Elections, including the NSLVE voting data, provide countless opportunities to engage the entire campus community in well-organized and facilitated discussions. Cultivate a cadre of trained facilitators and structures for supporting campus-wide discussions.
IDHE’s Talking Politics: Guide for Campus Conversations about your Voting Rights provides a roadmap for convening dialogues about your campus climate that is useful in all phases of electoral engagement.
For more resources, visit https://tischcollege.tufts.edu/sites/default/files/Politics%20365.pdf
Deliberative dialogues are structured conversations that offer a way to talk about important issues and wrestle with associated hard choices and differing viewpoints. Deliberative Dialogues are premised upon the recognition of strengths in other peoples’ positions, showing concern for others, temporarily suspending one’s own beliefs, searching for a common understanding, and relying on the participants’ collective knowledge and experiences to arrive at better solutions.
Deliberative dialogues can be used as a civic tool to respond to electoral issues nationally as well as locally. Although faculty facilitate dialogues at some institutions, many believe that the training and use of student facilitators is central to deliberative dialogues as builds civic skills. Training is essential and training materials are available in the resources section.
Words of Advice for Conducting Deliberative Dialogue Forums:
- Develop Informed Voters through Candidate and Issue Forums
- Remove the Mystery of Voting for Community College Students
- Employ National Issues Forums to Talk Politics on Campus and Community
- Increase and Improve Classroom Issue Discussions Across Discipline
Examples of NIF Issue Guides most used in Electoral Engagement:
- A House Divided: What Would We Have to Give UP to Get the Political System We Want
- A Nation in Debt: How Can We Pay the Bill?
- Keeping America Safe: What is Our Greatest Threat? How Should We Respond?
- Coming to America: Who Should We Welcome, What Should We Do?
Training Resources and Guides: https://www.nifi.org/
“Students do care. A large number of students have newly become legal adults. They are eager to participate in civically engaged projects but are unsure and hesitant. When talking to students especially newly graduated high schoolers they expressed a desire to vote and perhaps had already registered but knew little else about the process such as who were the candidates and what were the issues. Initially this made them hesitate to commit to voting; however, after attending the different education events we put on they felt like they either could or knew where to research in order make an informed decision. We were also able to provide students with voter educational information such as where to find their polling place, how to find out who the candidates were, and what propositions were on the ballot. Knowledge empowered students to confidently exercise their right to vote.”
-Duane Oakes, Mesa Community College, AZ
Integrate issue discussions in the classroom across disciplines
From Election Imperatives:
Increase and improve classroom issue discussions across disciplines.
Every discipline has public relevance, and faculty members across academic fields can embed learning about salient political, policy, and controversial issues into a course. Overcome barriers to this kind of teaching by supporting departmental leadership and faculty development efforts.
We recommend offering a faculty workshop before the beginning of the semester or early in the semester using IDHE’s Facilitating Political Discussions in the Community College Classroom. With a workshop and training faculty before the beginning of the semester or early in the semester as discussions are more than likely to occur and allow faculty and staff to build confidence to engage students (and colleagues) neutrality, civility, and effectively.
Showing upExpand All
Support and leverage student activism and leadership on campus
“You have to reach out to them- this has to be part of the curriculum and co-curriculum. It must be in the very heart of student life on campus, to be civically engaged. Making voting a party worked well. We have created a template and now it is time to institutionalize it.”
-David McMahon, Kirkwood Community College, IA
From Election Imperatives:
Support student activism and leadership.
Be encouraging, nimble, and responsive to student activism. Use activism as an opportunity to involve more students and to rethink the purpose of student learning as they develop into leaders and active members of communities and a diverse democracy.
Empower students to create buzz around the election
From Election Imperatives:
Empower students to create a buzz around the election.
Election season offers innumerable opportunities through voter mobilization and co-curricular activities for student leadership, fostering peer-to-peer interactions, and “creating a buzz” around the election. Use these opportunities to teach students important leadership skills such as how to develop an action plan, how to reach diverse groups on campus, and how to manage conflict.
- Students Learn Students Vote (SLSV)
- Strengthening American Democracy from SLSV
- ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge
Four Ways to to Make it Fun and Engaging
- Make it big – Student-driven, multi-campus events such as conferences or forums that teach students about community organizing and mobilizing voters are powerful tools to get out the vote. Some campuses invite local artists, performers, or musicians; others invite guest speakers. At one, students held a flash mob in the quad.
- Help them learn – in addition to being encouraged to vote, students need to be educated about how to register, as well as what is on the ballot.
- Make it competitive and offer prizes – ask student groups or teams to compete to register the most voters. Solicit prizes from local businesses to give to the groups registering the most voters.
- Make it catchy – ask students to create catch phrases for their events to garner attention. Successful names have included: “We ALL Vote,” “Get Your Vote On,” “Show Up, Make it Count”
Investigate the possibility of early voting and voting together
Many community college students have very challenging time schedules and are not always able to make it to the polls on election day. These barriers can be turned into opportunities for early voting initiatives so that students do not have to wait to vote and can do it as part of an initiative or campus effort. Investigate rules and ways for early voting in your area as a possibility.
Also, consider absentee ballots. Voting absentee is an easy way for students to be able to vote without going through the struggle of getting to the polls on election day. After the student has registered to vote, they are eligible to register for an absentee ballot. The absentee ballot application process varies from state to state, an easy and accessible way to access all of the absentee ballot registration information is on AbsenteeBallotsNow.com.
We need to do more in celebrating and promoting community college accomplishments in electoral engagement. It supports the notion of community colleges as democracy’s colleges reinforcing the importance electoral engagement for community college students and the campus’ commitment to democracy and to the community. Recognizing electoral engagement efforts can incentivize more efforts on campus and inspire more participation in future efforts.
It is also a time to reflect on the efforts as a way to inform future efforts and build a sustainable and growing electoral engagement. Furthermore, working with public relations for community recognition of efforts can enhance connection, regard, and attention of campus efforts in local and social media.
- Celebration- Seek out opportunities to recognize efforts and also recognize them on campus.
- Reflection- Immediately reflect on the efforts the day after elections to inform future efforts while fresh.
- Wash, Rinse, and Repeat- Turn electoral engagement into a habit.
Additionally, submit results for recognition in national projects and initiatives like the following:
Campus Compact's Newman Civic Fellowship recognizes and supports community-committed students who are changemakers and public problem-solvers at Campus Compact member institutions. Fellows are nominated by their president or chancellor on the basis of their potential for public leadership. Utilize this program to recognize students who showed leadership in campus electoral engagement efforts. For more information, visit https://compact.org/current-programs/newman-civic-fellowship/
The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge is a national awards program that recognizes colleges and universities for their commitment to increasing student voting rates and encourages higher education institutions to help students form the habits of active and informed citizenship making democratic participation a core value on their campus. For more information, visit https://www.allinchallenge.org/.
The Voter Friendly Campus designation is a program through the partnership of Campus Vote Project and NASPA that helps institutions develop plans to coordinate administrators, faculty, and student organizations in civic and electoral engagement. Upon execution and evaluation of their plans to help students register and vote, campuses in the program are designated as Voter Friendly Campuses. For more information, visit https://www.voterfriendlycampus.org/.
- Gabe Estill
Associate Dean of Instruction, Wilbur Wright College, IL
- Connie Jorgensen
Assistant Professor of Political Science, Piedmont Virginia Community College, VA
- Tara Karaim
Community-Based Learning Coordinator, Johnson County Community College, KY
- Lisa Lawrason
Political Science Professor, Delta College, MI
- David R. McMahon
Professor of History, Kirkwood Community College, Iowa City Campus, IA
- Diane McMahon
Assistant Professor of Sociology and Service Learning Coordinator, Allegany College of Maryland, MD
- Lori Moog
Director of Service Learning and Community Outreach, Raritan Valley Community College, NJ
- Helen-Margaret Nasser
Director, Student Union and Intercultural Center, CUNY Kingsborough Community College, NY
- Duane Oakes
Faculty Director, Honors and Civic Engagement, Mesa Community College, AZ
- David Price
Professor of History and Political Science, Sante Fe College, FL
- Patty D. Robinson
Faculty Director of Civic and Community Engagement, College of the Canyons, CA
- Joseph Scanlon
Assistant Professor of Political Science, Monroe Community College, NY
- Sharon Wettengel
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Tarrant County College, Southeast Campus, TX