U of M’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (housed in the Ford School) just published a report detailing “local leaders’ views on elections in Michigan: accuracy, problems, and reform options.” Check out the information below!
“This report presents the opinions of Michigan’s local government leaders on issues related to election administration in their jurisdictions, including problems encountered, worker recruitment and training, updating voting equipment, and potential
reforms. These findings are based on statewide surveys of local government leaders in the Spring 2017 wave of the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS).
By Elizabeth Pratt, University of Michigan student
Originally published by Democracy Works
In an ideal world, Americans young and old would storm the polls, or fill out their absentee ballots, with enthusiasm and knowledge come election day. It would not matter if the election was for local officials or the president, because American citizens would care regardless. Unfortunately, this is not the world we live in, at least for the moment. The world we do live in is a world where many people feel discouraged to vote—especially 18- to 24-year olds.
“Why is this?” you may ask yourself. For some young adults, the problem with voting is the complicated registration process. For others, it is a lack of understanding about how to register to vote, and then how to actually vote at the polls. Others may not understand the importance of voting, especially in midterm and local elections. Turn Up Turnout, a nonpartisan student group at the University of Michigan started by Professor Edie Goldenberg, hopes to encourage 18- to 24-year olds to vote despite these concerns.
This past summer, Turn Up Turnout, known by its members as TUT, worked to create and implement a workshop teaching incoming students at the University of Michigan WHY it is crucial to vote in midterm and local elections, as well as HOW to register and vote. The workshop includes a deliberative discussion encouraging participants to share differing opinions, common misconceptions about voting, a timeline detailing when certain groups of Americans gained the right to vote, and reasons why it is important to vote. The workshop is meant to be interactive and educational, allowing students to voice concerns about voting, which facilitators can address in hopes of demystifying the voting process.
One challenge we faced, even before facilitating, was remaining nonpartisan. This has been the basis of TUT from its inception, the treasured key to our success. Therefore, we had to be concerned about everything from the colors of the slideshow to the deliberative discussion topic, since no data could appear to clearly favor one argument over another. We overcame this difficulty by meticulous editing of the presentation and thorough research into the information we provided. However, the most important way to remain nonpartisan was to remind ourselves of the purpose of the workshop: to teach and encourage everyone to vote, because voting is the lifeblood of the democratic process.
Through the facilitation of these workshops, we learned a lot. For one, we learned how important it is for participants to be given a voice, regardless of their opinion. We encouraged this by circling the room during the deliberative discussion to hear what everyone said, calling on people who had not talked yet or raised their hands, and allowing for uncomfortable silences in hopes that someone would feel like talking who had not done so before. We also learned that many participants did not understand aspects of voting such as absentee ballots or not having to fill in every item on the ballot—concerns that we now make a priority to address in our presentation.
Furthermore, TUT has partnered with the Ginsberg Center at the University of Michigan to register students on TurboVote at new student orientation. This initiative resulted in the registration of over 1,200 students on TurboVote, placing the University of Michigan at the top of the TurboVote leaderboard for over two months. The main challenge we faced was: how do we make sure our booth is not ignored by students who are tired of waiting in line and have their hands full with pillows and suitcases? We dealt with this problem by having someone stand outside of the sign-in room and tell students, in firm language, that the next step of signing in was to register to vote. Thus, students understood the importance of what we were doing and could ask us questions while navigating TurboVote. From this process, we learned how crucial it is to have students register in front of you, where they are held accountable and can see how easy it is to use TurboVote, which will aid them in registering to vote and much more.
TUT’s work will not stop here. We are proud of our summer initiatives, and plan to continue to develop them over the fall, as well as tackle some new projects. Some of our next steps include:
- Training facilitators at Michigan universities to implement our workshop in high schools across the state;
- Continuing to register the University of Michigan students through TurboVote at campus events;
- Teaching a class on strengthening the right to vote; and
- Kicking off the Big Ten Voting Challenge. The Big Ten Voting Challenge starts in September 2017. This is a competition between all Big Ten schools to see who can achieve the highest percentage improvement of voter turnout in the 2018 midterm elections, as well as who can most improve their percentage of voter turnout in the 2018 midterm elections (compared to the 2014 midterm election turnout). TUT and the Ginsberg Center will be hosting events on campus to register students through TurboVote and engage students in hopes of helping U of M win the challenge.
In closing, we at TUT hope sharing our challenges and triumphs will give other universities the tools to implement movements on their campus, because the time has come for universities to acknowledge and use their power to impress upon students the importance of fulfilling their civic duty. One piece of parting wisdom is that increasing student voter turnout is composed of three simple aspects:
- Collaboration between students and faculty;
- Transparency of universities concerning voter turnout statistics on campus; and
- Hard work by people who are passionate about their mission.
For more information on TUT, our initiatives, and our events, visit sites.lsa.umich.edu/tut.
by Massachusetts State Senator Eric Lesser (@EricLesser) and California State Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (@KevinKileyCA)Add one more to the long list of faulty assumptions about the 2016 election: young Americans stayed in their dorm rooms rather than heading outside to vote.
Apathy on behalf of students towards the democratic process may be the stereotype – but increasingly, it’s not the reality. The conventional wisdom in American politics is that, compared to older generations, young people on college campuses exhibit a lack of trust in the process and don’t vote. With civil discourse strained and a country divided, “the young are passionate, opinionated, and barely aware,” as a leading magazine put it a few years ago.
In fact, student participation improved by 7 percent in 2016, compared to the presidential election in 2012, according to an important new, landmark study from Tufts University and the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE). Put another way, more than 350,000 additional students voted in 2016 than 2012. The NSLVE study is as significant as it is sweeping: it analyzed voting rates of nearly 10 million active students attending more than 1,000 institutions of higher education across all 50 states – roughly half of all college students in the country. Among the findings was increased voting rates among Latino and Asian students. And while older students in the NSLVE data set were more likely to vote, the participation rate of the youngest group of college students increased notably by 4 percent over 2012.As a Democratic State Senator in Massachusetts and a Republican State Assemblyman in California who lead our states’ Millennial Caucuses, and as former classmates who met on a college campus where we developed a shared passion for public service that transcends party, we are encouraged by these findings. If millennials – a generation that surpassed Baby Boomers in terms of size in 2016 – continue to vote, we will emerge as a potent force in American politics that elevates issues important to young people like housing costs, college affordability, and the country’s debt to the top of the agenda.Yes, the country is divided, and so are young voters, who split roughly evenly across the ideological spectrum. But engaging young voters is a nonpartisan cause, and we can come together as Democrats and Republicans to help young Americans participate in American democracy. Student engagement in the democratic process is critical if our country is to tackle its most pressing challenges, think long-term, and continue to stand for freedom on the world stage. Because as President Ronald Reagan famously said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream.”Across the country, there is a new energy to make improvements on campuses: colleges and universities have been taking action to increase student voting rates and informed citizenship in recent years. Northwestern University is a prime example. When the freshman class of 2021 arrived on campus this Fall, just 39 percent were registered voters. But by the end of the first day of class, voter registration was at a staggering 96.4 percent. How? The school integrates voter registration into move-in day. Because of Northwestern’s Center for Civic Engagement’s programs, registering to vote becomes as routine for new students as unpacking extra-long twin sheets for their dorm rooms.In the Big Ten, Conference Presidents have joined together for the Big Ten Voting Challenge, a competition that seeks to increase voter registration and participation on campuses. It’s a bipartisan group including former Republican Governor Mitch Daniels (President of Purdue University) and former Acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President Obama, Rebecca Blank (Chancellor of University of Wisconsin – Madison). The Southern Conference is also running competitions to award schools with the highest and most improved voter participation. And on October 19th the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge is hosting an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. to honor college campuses, and individuals on those campuses, that are leading the way to increase student voting rates.Still, there’s work to be done. Younger Americans continue to have the lowest voting rate of any age group, according to Pew Research Center. We can do better. And any voter outreach efforts must be coupled with a renewed focus on civic education in our schools, so students can start learning how democracy actually works and develop the values and habits of citizenship before they reach voting age.More than fifty years ago, President Truman commissioned a study on higher education, finding that civic education is the foundation of liberty, and stating that, “Without an educated citizenry alert to preserve and extend freedom, it would not long endure.”It’s now on us to come together, encourage civic engagement, and ensure that we “preserve and extend freedom” in our country for generations to come.Senator Eric P. Lesser is a Democrat representing the First Hampden & Hampshire District in Western Massachusetts and previously worked as an aide in the Obama White House. When he was first elected at 29 years-old in 2014, Senator Lesser was the youngest member of the Massachusetts State Senate.Assemblyman Kevin Kiley represents California’s Sixth Assembly District, near Sacramento. Formerly a high school teacher, Assemblyman Kiley is the state’s youngest Republican Legislator.This post was originally published in ATTN: