UW has joined colleges and universities around the country in an initiative to prepare students for the upcoming presidential election.
As part of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, UW set up a committee which is implementing a 20-part initiative, including a one-stop website and a series of videos, to encourage students to register to vote.
Morgridge Center for Public Service director Kathy Cramer serves on the challenge’s national board due to her civic background at the center.
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This is the first year of the nationwide challenge and UW was invited to participate at the end of September.
“One of the most important things is that there is this competitive element which incentives universities and colleges to try to do as much as they can to make sure students are prepared for this election,” Cramer said.
UW has a long tradition of political engagement and a active student body, Cramer said. The university was created to help ensure that people knew how to engage and participate in a democracy, she said.
Historically, UW voter turnout has been one of the highest in the country, though it does vary among schools on campus, Cramer said.
The School of Education has had the highest turnout in past elections, whereas the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Statistics have had some of the lower turnout rates, Cramer said.
“Overall voter turnout rate [for UW students] in 2012 was 53 percent,” Cramer said. “But our voter registration rate was really high at 69.8 percent.”
The average voter turnout rate at UW’s peer institutions was 46.9 percent, Cramer said.
McGinnity-Wake said the challenge is a great way to increase voter turnouts.
Students know voting is important, but they may not know enough about the voting process, McGinnity-Wake said. This is typically the reason voter turnout rates are lower than voter registration.
“The stakes could not be higher,” McGinnity-Wake said. “This is not a normal election cycle.”