Michigan Will Begin Awarding Colleges for Increasing Voter Turnout on Campus


Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced a new program Thursday that will award two-year and four-year colleges with the highest voter registration and turnout rates.

“Young people are our future, and it’s critical that members of the next generation make their voices heard in our democracy,” Benson said when announcing the Michigan Collegiate Voting Challenge. “I invite and encourage every higher education institution across the state to participate in the Michigan Collegiate Voting Challenge and commit to increasing voter turnout on campus.”

According to a press release Benson’s office, institutions that sign up for the program will be provided with “guidance and tools for increasing student engagement on their campus.”

“By signing up for the Challenge, all accredited, degree-granting higher education institutions across the state can improve, measure, and celebrate efforts to institutionalize nonpartisan civic learning, political engagement and informed voter participation,” the release adds.

Awards will be issued biennially to participating colleges for the highest voter turnout, the most improved voter turnout, and the highest rate of voter registration. Schools that participate will be automatically enrolled in the national “ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge,” which issues “recognition seals and national awards.”

A document from Benson’s office also states Michigan institutions will be “automatically eligible to earn state awards from the Secretary of State’s Office,” though there aren’t many specifics on what exactly the awards will entail.

Awards will be based on data collected through the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement reports issued by the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer expressed her support for the initiative and joined Benson in sending letters to college presidents across the state to encourage them to participate.

“If we’re going to ensure everyone in Michigan is engaged in the political process, we must encourage our young people to vote,” Whitmer said. “That work starts on our college campuses. I’m hopeful that all of our college and university leaders choose to participate in this Challenge so we can ensure every voice is heard. Secretary Benson has been a fierce leader in making this happen, and I look forward to working with her and everyone else who wants to boost voter turnout in the future.”

Benson said her office is partnering with the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge to facilitate Michigan’s competition.

“Preparing students for their public lives as citizens, members of communities and professionals in society has historically been a responsibility of higher education,” said Jennifer Domagal-Goldman, executive director of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. “We are thrilled to partner with the Michigan Secretary of State to encourage higher education institutions in Michigan to make a plan to increase student voter engagement.”

The highly-coveted 18-29 age demographic preferred Democrats over Republicans by 67 percent to 32 percent in the 2018 midterms, according to the Harvard Institute of Politics. Nearly four million more young people voted in 2018 than in 2014 while Democrats saw their support among young people increase by 13 percent between those four years.

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].”






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