In the competitive spirit of the Big Ten conference, the schools have now come together for the Big Ten voting challenge.

On Sep. 18 University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank, along with the chancellors of Rutgers, Penn State, and Purdue at their respective universities, announced the launch of the collective initiative to advance civic engagement on campus through the challenge in a statement. 

“One of the most important values we teach at our universities is the importance of civic engagement,” the statement said. “Voting in elections gives our students a voice in the democratic process and in the decisions that affect local, state, and national issues.”

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The Big Ten Voting Challenge is a nonpartisan initiative that’s encouraging young, college-aged individuals to vote as part of their civic duty, the statement said.

According to the statement, the voter turnout for people under 30 is historically low, especially in midterm elections, making this year a good time to tackle low voter turnout.

“We know we can all do better. Our democracy will thrive when all voices are represented, and students can play an integral role in shaping our collective future,” the statement said.

The Big Ten Voter Challenge’s goal is to help increase voter turnout at all 14 Big Ten universities. Each school will approach the challenge in their own way, coordinating events and outreach that is suitable for their campuses. Currently, the challenge will continue until after the 2018 elections, where two trophies will be awarded — one to the highest eligible voter turnout, and the other to the most improved turnout.

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UW has been a very engaged campus compared to others,  Katherine Cramer, UW professor and Director of the Morgridge Center for Public Service, said. She is hopeful this challenge will make voter participation continue to rise.

“I am hopeful that the voter challenge will spark more engagement in the future,” Cramer said. “There are many students working on engaging their peers through ASM and the Morgridge Center, and it is great to see people embrace this important form of democratic action.”

The Morgridge Center for Public Service is home to three undergraduate students who serve as Vote Everywhere Ambassadors funded by the Andrew Goodman Foundation, Assistant Director of Civic Engagement at Morgridge Center for Public Service, Megan Miller, said.

The ambassadors are meeting with registered student organizations and administrators to communicate the importance of voting. They have already had meetings with the Chancellor, College Republicans, Young Progressives, the League of Women Voters and will soon meet with the Madison City Clerk and a representative from the Campus Elections Engagement Project.

The Morgridge Center for Public Service will be leading the campus participation in the Big Ten Voting Challenge, and in her statement, Blank encourages all students to reach out to [email protected] to learn more and to get involved.

“Civic engagement is so important because if we are going to have a democracy we need people, and a wide range of people, to participate,” Cramer said. “It is important to vote in college, because for most people these are young adult years, a time of life that is really important for setting political habits.”