Democracy requires participation. The NAU Votes Coalition wants to make sure everyone is participating, and a recent national report showed they’re well on their way to that goal.
According to the 2020 National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) Campus Report, NAU had a 16.4 point increase in voting rate, jumping from 45.9 percent in 2016 to 62.3 percent in 2020. Moreover, 82.3 percent of voter-eligible NAU students registered to vote in 2020 compared to 77.3 percent in 2016. That number is above the national average for comparable student voters.
The coalition, a campuswide effort to increase voter registration, education and election participation, played a major role in increasing youth turnout at NAU and throughout Arizona.
“Between 2016 and 2020, there was not a significant change in the investment from outside groups in voter registration and GOTV efforts at NAU,” said Kyle Nitschke, the organizing director for the Arizona Students’ Association and a member of the NAU Votes Coalition. “The difference was this coalition and the coordinated action to integrate voting into student life.”
The NAU Votes Coalition is spearheaded by faculty and students from the NAU community
engagement minor and includes participants from departments and organizations throughout campus, the community and the state. The group is part of the All In Democracy Challenge, a national campus effort to increase young people’s democratic participation. By recognizing colleges and universities for their commitment to increasing student voting rates, the challenge encourages higher education institutions to help students form the habits of active and informed citizenship, make democratic participation a core value on their campus and cultivate generations of engaged citizens who are essential to a healthy democracy.
Members of the NAU Votes Coalition coordinated their voter registration and engagement efforts to reach students in a variety of ways. They made hundreds of class presentations to encourage students to vote and help them through the process. They worked with NAU staff to add a prominent voter registration link on the NAUgo app and integrated voter registration into students’ NAU accounts. They developed the NAU Votes website as a hub for voting information and created an engaging video for faculty to show in their classes.
The coalition also worked with the ASNAU president to send out a message to students emphasizing the importance of voter registration. Finally, they provided ongoing voter education, with student-focused events including a panel discussion of voter suppression with county election officials and student activists, a campus debate among the candidates for state House and Senate and a Know Your Vote night giving students information about the propositions and offices on their ballot.
“There is not a more direct way to initiate change than through exercising our right and responsibility to vote,” said Lori Poloni-Staudinger, the interim dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “I am beyond pleased to see the efforts of the NAU Votes coalition pay off, because in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences we pride ourselves on engagement and making a difference in our communities.”
The NAU Votes Coalition is building on the 2020 momentum by creating a culture of civic engagement at NAU through a collaborative campus effort. The group will focus on institutionalizing and integrating voter registration into student life, providing election information for students through various platforms and increasing voter participation.
Photo credit: Photo by Dan Dennis on Unsplash