By Carmen Miller
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.) – IU Southeast student voting has increased from 25.4% in 2014 midterm elections to 43.4% in 2018 midterm elections, according to the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE), conducted by the Institute for Democracy and Higher Learning (IDHE). This significant jump is reflective of an increase in youth voting; according to the national average, student voting has increased from 19.7% in 2014 to 39.1% in 2018.
“I have heard this phenomenon explained by recognizing the Gen Z cohort of students is being more politically active,” Seuth Chaleunphonh, dean of Student Life at IU Southeast.
IU Southeast students considerably exceed the national average. The number of students who voted increased from 1,463 to 2,132. Students aged 18 to 21 displayed the most dramatic rise in voting, shifting from just 15.6% in 2014 to 38.7% in 2018, supporting Chaleunphonh’s statement.
Because of IU Southeast’s impressive voter turnout, the university was awarded a Gold Seal by the 2019 ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 12. The Gold Seal is awarded to campuses with 40-49% voter participation in the 2018 Midterm Election.
IU Southeast is honored to receive such recognition as our institution strives to emphasize the importance of the democratic process and student voting by educating students on civic responsibility and encouraging their participation in government.
“We’re really excited about the increase in student voting, and a lot of people on campus worked to educate and sustain student, faculty and staff investment in civic life,” said Kelly Ryan, dean of the School of Social Sciences.
In the 2018-19 academic year, students were given the opportunity to register to vote upon being admitted to the university. Additionally, the Civic Engagement Committee allowed students to check their registration status online before the close of Kentucky and Indiana voter registration by setting up computers and an informational table next to the Office of Campus Life. Participants were given stickers as an incentive for their promise to register and/or vote and to inspire other community members to do the same. This event was followed by a voter drive on campus leading up to elections. Further election events were held at the Horizon Radio Station to educate students on candidates before going to vote and to celebrate voting day.
“People have recognized how close the voting was in some of the states during the 2016 election and sense that their vote does count,” said Chaleunphonh, suggesting that the U.S. can expect to see greater participation in coming elections.
With the 2020 presidential election quickly approaching, the IU Southeast community can certainly expect to see more events targeted toward student voting.
“We plan on ramping up voter registration efforts in 2020,” said Ryan. “Unlike last year, we will have another voter registration drive in the spring, instead of just fall.”
The Civic Engagement Committee will continue to meet and plan more for the coming year.