Engaging the electorate

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

Campuses are working to increase electoral engagement among students.

Nearly 60 percent of eligible voters are Gen Xers, Millennials, or “post-Millennials” as of April 2018, according to the Pew Research Center. But that doesn’t mean they all vote, especially during midterm elections. In the 2014 midterms, these voters accounted for 53 percent of eligible voters; they cast just 36 million votes. That’s 21 million fewer than the Boomer, Silent and Greatest generations.

For students at two-year colleges, only about 45 percent voted in the 2016 presidential election, according to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement.

As the 2018 midterm elections approach, there’s a push to engage more students. Campus Compact’s The Democracy Commitment Initiative (TDC) launched Engage the Election: 2018, a project to advance non-partisan electoral engagement on community college campuses, where many students are low-income and/or first-generation. Fourteen two-year colleges were awarded mini-grants to helpproduce ideas, principles, and practices for effective electoral engagement at community colleges,” according to Campus Compact. These colleges will ultimately serve as case studies for the project, leading to resources that can be used by a number of campuses.

At Delta College in Michigan, 35 percent of students were not eligible to vote in the 2016 election simply because they weren’t registered. The college, which was awarded a mini-grant, is holding a voter registration drive this week.

Allegany College of Maryland was awarded a $1,850 grant. The college will hold a dialogue forum on Sept. 21 focused on the Parker Palmer book “Healing the Heart of Democracy.” Students also can participate in TDC’s National Voter Registration Day Contest, and attend an Election Day party on Nov. 6.

“Our students care deeply about issues that matter to them: student debt, jobs, access to health care, the addiction epidemic, poverty, racism, mass incarceration, gender-based violence, veterans’ services, etc.,” said Service Learning and Civic Engagement Center Director Diane McMahon. “This grant encourages them to head to the polls so their voices can be heard.”

The Engage the Election: 2018 project also will have a number of other tools for its 1,000+ Campus Compact member institutions, including a webinar series and a National Voter Registration Day event.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.