The Washington Monthly released its list of America’s best colleges for student voting in 2020, where they rate which schools do the most to encourage students to become enthusiastic about civic engagement. University of Wisconsin-Parkside is one of three Wisconsin institutions named among the 157 schools on the list.
The 2020 election is poised to be like any other in U.S. history, and will certainly be a challenging process due to the ongoing pandemic. But regardless of whatever challenges lie ahead, universities are doing their utmost to turn students into informed voters and to understand their communities. The University of Wisconsin-Parkside has had an active program in civic engagement, promoting volunteerism, internships and community based learning projects.
In 2006, that impetus took the form of the American Democracy Project, preparing students for active participation in the 2008 election process through cooperatives across diverse departments and community partners. Community engagement is a nationally recognized hallmark of distinction for UW-Parkside embedded in an institutional commitment fostering civic-minded students, alumni, staff and faculty who provide scholarship, leadership, resources and services to the local and global community. Then, the College of Social Sciences and Professional Studies launched the Election Experience for students, community members, and staff: a unique program that includes a comprehensive civics course alongside discussions and events that are open to members of the community
Now, the Election Experience is being offered again, as we lead up to the 2020 election. The Election Experience 2020 will feature debate watch parties, speaker presentations, and brown bag lunch discussions covering topics such as “Slavery, Race, and the Constitution” (September 16) and “Political Advertising on Social Media” (September 23). Additionally, the Election Experience site offers resources to students, such as a nonpartisan presidential guide (in English & Spanish), information on mail-in and absentee ballots, and so on.
UW-Parkside takes part in National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE). For the 2016 election, analysis was based on the voting records of 9,784,931 million students at 1,023 higher education institutions. The study found that 48.3% of all students voted in the 2016 presidential election, which significant variations by race gender, field of student, institution type, and more. 2016 was the second election year that UW-Parkside has participated in the study, in which the university ranked higher in voter turnout than the national average. To be precise, UW-Parkside’s voting rate was 56.7%, more than 6 points over the national average.
UW-Parkside also participates in the NSLVE for the midterm elections. In 2014, 53.9 percent of registered UW-Parkside students voted. Participation for student-registered voters rose to 76.9 percent in 2018. UW-Parkside faculty also consistently work with the diver student population to ensure that all students know the importance and power of voting. The number of Black and Hispanic voters rose from 32.2 percent to 41.7 percent and 19.5 percent to 48.3 percent, respectively, from 2014 to 2018.
The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge works with all kinds of colleges to develop school-specific student voting action plans. It has developed a virtual tool kit full of suggestions for how schools can use the internet to bolster registration and turnout during the pandemic, and it has created a Google group where colleges can share digital resources and ask questions. The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) at Tufts University calculates registration numbers and turnout rates for participating campuses, allowing schools to track their progress.
To encourage schools to work at bettering turnout, the Monthly has used ALL IN and NSLVE information to compile its fifth student voting honor roll. The listed schools have met multiple criteria. They have submitted an ALL IN action plan in 2018 and 2020. They’ve signed up to receive NSLVE data about their own campus registration and turnout rates. And they’ve made both their 2016 and 2018 NSLVE data available to the public. They have, in short, shown a repeated commitment to increasing student voting and have been transparent about the results. Schools that met the honor roll met all five of these criteria.