Talking About Civic Engagement Matters.
Traditional-age college students are young, have little or no history of voting, and are residentially mobile, which works against their rates of voter registration and voter turnout. Studies show that encouragement from faculty, staff, and other students makes a significant difference in their student registration and turnout (Bennion and Nickerson, 2016). The University of Michigan’s Big Ten Voting Challenge and civic engagement efforts helped to increase student midterm election turnout from 14.3% (2014) to 41.0% (2018), but that is well short of full engagement and we have more work to do.
Encouraging students to engage in the democratic process is a non-partisan activity.
How do we define civic and democratic engagement?
Civic engagement is contributing and working to make a difference in the public (or civic) life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and commitment to make that difference. Democratic engagement is the practice of engaged citizenship (defined as membership in a community) through democratic mechanisms and principles. This overview offers more information and resources.
How can you support your students’ civic engagement?
Be aware of key dates for Election Day
Election Day is November 3, 2020 (For U.S. Presidential, local, state and federal)
- October 15, 2020: U-M is hosting the 2nd Presidential Debate.
- Visit the official website to learn more about the debate and the programming surrounding the event
- October 19, 2020: last date for students to register to vote in any manner other than in person
- After the 19th, students will need to register to vote in person WITH proof of residency at a Secretary of State branch or with the local clerk.
- October 30, 2020: By mail absentee ballot deadline (applying 7 days prior recommended) .
- November 2, 2020: In person absentee ballot deadline
- Additional voter information available at govote.umich.edu
Be aware of key Primary Dates
- February 3, 2020: 2020 voting begins with the Iowa Caucus. Students planning to vote in a state other than Michigan should review dates and deadlines.
- February 24, 2020: last date for students to register to vote in the primary by mail or online.
- After the 24th, students will need to register to vote in person WITH proof of residency at a Secretary of State branch or with the local clerk.
- March 6, 2020: Michigan absentee ballot request form must be received by 5:00 pm
- March 10, 2020: Presidential Primary in Michigan.
- August 4, 2020: Local, state and federal primary elections in Michigan
Include information about voting and civic engagement in your syllabus
- Consider the timing of exams on election days.
- Include framing language in your syllabus, such as:
In a democracy, a government is chosen by voting to elect representatives to make policy and enforce laws while representing the citizens. The University of Michigan encourages eligible students to exercise their right to vote, and students of all citizenship backgrounds to actively engage in issues of public concern. When more people participate, a broader array of perspectives is represented in policies and laws that impact our country, society, and the world. You can register to vote at govote.umich.edu.
Share voting resources with your students
University of Michigan students hail from all over the world, and while students who are U.S. citizens are eligible to vote in Michigan, many will choose to vote in their home state.
- Make a Canvas announcement to encourage voting
- Utilize pre-made slides, created by student organization Turn Up Turnout, for a brief classroom presentation on the imporance of voting
- Share the govote.umich.edu link, for voter registration assistance and F.A.Q.s, regardless of where students hail from.
- Share the League of Women Voters website vote411.org for a nonpartisan overview of all upcoming elections, customized by current address
- Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP) offers a guide to Incorporating Election Engagement into Your Courses (PDF available here) with additional strategies to engage your students.
Go deeper with colleagues and students
For those who are interested in exploring further, you can work with colleagues and others to engage more deeply:
- Hold a meeting with other faculty to strategize ways to support students' learning around civic engagement
- Host a panel with faculty or other experts to talk about specific issues
- Bring in a local rep who is legislating about policies relevant to your field or discipline
- Check-in with your professional or disciplinary associations to get ideas for connecting your discipline with public policy
- Explore additional resources and strategies