A recent study by the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education showed voting in the 2018 midterm election rose to around 31 percent at Illinois State, a jump from a 13 percent turn-out in the 2014 midterms. This matches the increase in voting rates, with 99 percent of all schools surveyed saying they saw a rise in students casting ballots in the latest midterm elections.
“We’re seeing a greater interest across campus of students who are civically engaged, and that includes voting,” said Emily Nafziger of the University’s Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CESL).
Presidential elections generally have the highest voter turn-out across the United States, and around half of Illinois State students voted in 2016. The increase recently prompted the announcement of a new voting location to be opened at Watterson Towers for the 2020 presidential election.
Now midterms are attracting younger voters as well. The national study, called Democracy Counts, showed college students turned out at nearly double the rate from the 2014 midterms, with black women maintaining their position as the most active voters on campuses across the nation, and Hispanic women making the most significant gains.
Encouraging students to register to vote before Election Day is an effort embraced by the University’s American Democracy Project (ADP), a cooperative effort by students, faculty, staff, and administration to promote civic engagement at Illinois State. “Voting rises above political parties or issues,” said Katie Pratt, a staff member serving on the ADP’s Political Engagement Project. “Expressing yourself through voting is an action that embodies our value of being civically engaged.”
ADP, CESL, and student organizations collaborate on voter registration campaigns. “We recently had more than 200 people turn out for a showing of the documentary Rigged: The Voter Suppression Playbook at the Normal Theater,” said Nafziger of the joint CESL and ADP event. “The showing purposely coincided with National Voter Registration Day, and we had voter registration on site. We were thrilled to see so many students interested in voting rights and also registering to vote.”