NAU sees increased voter turnout

Two individuals walk to the Murdoch Center polling site Nov. 3, 2020.

The NAU Votes Coalition, a campus-wide effort to increase student voter registration, education and election participation have announced an increase in voter turnout for the 2020 general election. 

According to newly released data from Tufts University’s National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement Campus Report, NAU saw an increase in voter turnout for the 2020 election increased by 16.4%, jumping from 45.9% in 2016 to 62.3% in 2020. This follows a trend outlined in the report, which recorded a 14% increase in voter turnout from college students during the 2020 election, leaping from a 52% voter turnout in 2016 to 66% in 2020. 

Community Engagement Minor Coordinator Leah Mundell said the NAU Votes Coalition is spearheaded by faculty and students from the NAU Community Engagement Minor and includes participants from departments and organizations across campus, the community, and the state.

“We worked to create a coalition of students, faculty, and staff from across campus as well as off-campus partners with the goal of coordinating and amplifying our separate voter engagement efforts,” Mundell said. “We also wanted to bring in coalition members who might not otherwise see voter engagement as part of their job or role at NAU.”

The group is part of the All In Democracy Challenge, a national campus effort to increase the democratic participation of young people. The group is a nonpartisan organization which encourages higher education institutions to cultivate generations of engaged citizens, according to an NAU Votes Coalition press release. 

Moreover, members of the coalition coordinated voter registration drives and engagement efforts to reach students in a variety of ways. These efforts included a panel discussion of voter suppression with county election officials and student activists as well as a campus debate among the candidates for state House and Senate.

Arizona Students’ Association Organizing Director Kyle Nitschke said the increase in election participation is credited to the organization’s “Get Out To Vote” efforts at NAU. 

“The difference was this coalition and the coordinated action to integrate voting into student life,” Nitschke said.  

Mundell also noted the importance of the coalition's work in the 2020 election and she explained the coalition is already working on continuing the momentum for the 2022 midterm elections. 

“We know that our work in 2020 was critical to boosting NAU student voter turnout, and we want to make sure that we keep the momentum going,” Mundell said. “Midterm elections historically have much lower voter turnout than presidential elections, so we'll need to remind students how important these elections are. In the fall, we plan to provide opportunities for voter education through candidate forums and ‘Know Your Ballot’ events discussing propositions on the ballot.”

NAU Votes Coalition is currently building on the momentum the organization saw in 2020, 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, Mundell said.

Furthermore, Mundell explained the group will focus on increasing voter participation by providing election information for students through various platforms. 

“We would like to see voter registration built into every aspect of the student onboarding experience at NAU: orientation, First Gen programs, welcome week, dorm meetings, even class registration on Louie,” Mundell said. “We will then be working to create ongoing opportunities for students to register to vote through class presentations, student clubs and organizations, athletic challenges, Greek life and social media reminders.” 

Mundell hopes to build off their momentum coming off of the 2020 presidential election, and create a culture of civic engagement at NAU while they start their work for the 2022 midterm elections.

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