Minnesota universities are vying to get most students to vote in midterm elections
Posted 6:54 PM on Friday, October 7, 2022
By Linton Ritchie Jr., Minnesota Public Radio News
The Democracy Cup is a collegiate competition that highlights the college or university in Minnesota with the highest percentage of students who vote in midterm and presidential elections.
It was launched in 2018 by the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State and LeadMN, an organization that helps Minnesotans in two-year college programs transform their lives and communities.
Michael Dean is executive director of LeadMN and helps lead the Democracy Cup, held every two years with all private, public, and community colleges and universities in Minnesota, to establish the importance of youth civic engagement. .
“For years colleges and universities have competed on the sports field, and now they can also compete at the polls to see which institutions can get the highest vote rates from their students,” Dean said.
Minnesota among states with highest youth turnout in 2018, 2020
Data from Tufts University’s Center for Civic Learning and Engagement Research and Information shows that in 2018, Minnesota led the United States in youth participation rates with 43.7%, well above the 28.2% of eligible voters aged 18 to 29 who voted nationwide in 2018, according to Tufts.
Minnesota nearly reclaimed the top spot in 2020, but was overtaken by 2% when results showed 65% of young people voted in Minnesota and 67% in New Jersey. In comparison, 50% of young people voted nationally that year.
This was in line with national trends: the 2020 presidential election saw a record number of voter turnouts overall. According to the Pew Research Center, this increase in the number of voters was due in part to the polarizing race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, as well as greater access to early voting and mail-in voting due to the COVID pandemic. -19.
Dean said it’s important to recognize the student leaders who help organize the Democracy Cup, an activity he says facilitates student civic engagement and in turn helps Minnesota reach those numbers.
How St. Olaf College got nearly 90% of students to vote
At St. Olaf College, India Bock, senior, primarily leads the Election Ambassador Program where students are trained on election details and then use their established network on campus to encourage their peers to vote.
“It’s really hard to get people to vote with just a stranger telling you to vote. The best way to get people to vote is to ask someone they already know and trust to tell them,” Bock said.
St. Olaf won the Democracy Cup two years ago with an impressive 87.6% of students voting. The other 2018 winners in their divisions were the University of Minnesota in the four-year public college division, Winona State University in the four-year public college division, and Inver Hills Community College in the two-year public college division. .
Bock remembers the day they found out how many St. Olaf students had voted, and she described that moment as an incredible feeling.
However, Bock doubts those numbers will be high in the upcoming November election.
“We’re probably expecting fewer people just because it’s half term this year, so it will hurt turnout just because there’s less public talk about it,” Bock said.
Not only did St. Olaf have the highest student participation rate in Minnesota, it also had the highest rate of any college or university in the country, according to ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge.
Bock said their political department had completed research showing that through their election ambassador strategy, more students were more likely to vote because they received the information from a peer.
Their election ambassador strategy currently has approximately 55 students and Bock will continue to run the program as he has in the past.
Along with the program, Bock recognizes St. Olaf for a voting privilege that some campuses do not have.
“Part of the reason so many Olaf students vote is that we are a very residential campus. Almost all of the students live on campus and we have a polling place on our campus which is very fortunate and we’re lucky to have that. It’s a privilege we have that a lot of schools don’t have,” Bock said.
“Real progress in a very important age group”
Secretary of State Steve Simon said he’s proud of the work universities and colleges put into the Democracy Cup and the positive numbers reflect that. Many factors go into voter turnout, but Simon said the Democracy Cup surely helped.
“We are either number one or number two in the country in youth voter turnout in these last two elections and that shows real commitment and real progress in a very important age group,” said Simon.
The National Conference of State Legislatures shows that Minnesota is one of 23 states that allow same-day voter registration. This can be a factor in youth voting due to the speed of the process and the ability to do it all in one day.
Simon said his office wants to continue creating initiatives so young people can continue to participate in civic engagement.
“We are working right now with the Timberwolves and with the Vikings on ways to persuade all of their fans, but especially the young people, of the values of voting,” Simon said.