WeVote is creating a campus culture of voting at Western Michigan University.
A fundamental goal in higher education is to prepare students for thoughtful citizenship and participation in a democratic society. A starting point for this participation is voting, yet many students are effectively disenfranchised. Helping students overcome barriers such as well-being, access and knowledge can serve as the foundation for a lifetime of civic engagement. Building on the success of earlier student and faculty efforts, in 2018 a campus-wide non-partisan WeVote effort was launched to organize and promote civic learning and democratic engagement at Western Michigan University.
WeVote is successful when all students actively pursue civic engagement.
We aspire to educate all students on the process of voting, the issues and candidates for upcoming elections, and our primary goal is that ALL eligible students will be registered and vote in every election available to them.
WeVote utilizes evidence-based approaches and follows state recommendations in accomplishing our mission.
WeVote is a participating member of and accesses research and resources from several national organizations including the Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP), Campus Vote Project, and the ALL-IN Campus Democracy Challenge. WeVote members attend the annual Michigan Student Voter Summit to learn about specific state initiatives. The Michigan Collegiate Student Advisory Task Force Report recommends that “reaching students where they are, through the establishment of on-campus resources and voting access is paramount to increasing student and youth voter turnout.” WeVote adapts these available resources, research and recommendations into targeted actions focused on voter registration, education and turnout at WMU, including:
- Encouraging early (and online) registration through in-class voter-registration, on-campus voter registration stations (Bernhard Center, Waldo, Miller, Residence/Dining Halls), at high-profile campus events (e.g. Fall Welcome, Bronco Bash), and absentee ballot information sessions.
- Supporting voting logistics and transportation through student creation of an election day plan, requests to faculty to accommodate attendance on election days, and providing information on rideshare transport to off-campus polling locations.
- Providing voter education through mock election booth, electoral process and ‘what’s on your ballot’ information sessions and hosting debate watch parties, candidate and issue forums.
- Framing voting as exciting, and important through social media, web, and print promotional campaigns and hosting events on Election Days and National Voter Registration Day.
In 2018, WMU started collecting campus data as part of the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE); here is what we’ve learned so far:
- WMU saw a 3.3% increase in registered students, up to 61.8%, but the University trails the national average of 73.3%, which was up 8% from 2014.
- WMU voter turnout increased from 18.5% (2014) to 31.5% (2018) with the vast majority of students (78.5%) voting in-person on Election Day in 2018.
- WMU won a Silver Seal (over 30% of students voted) award in 2018 from the All-In Campus Democracy Challenge. (Gold Seal awarded for turnout over 40% and Platinum Seal awarded for turnout over 50%.)
- Overall, WMU students voted at a slightly higher rate (55.9%) than the average voting rate for students at all participating NSLVE institutions (55%)
WeVote is a university-wide effort.
The full WeVote committee is comprised of high-level administrators, several dedicated faculty, staff, and student leaders as well as external partners. Members represent Student Affairs, Government Affairs, Office of Assessment and Undergraduate Studies, University Libraries, University Athletics, Residence Life, Teaching Assistants Union, Extended University Programs, Graduate Student Association, Western Student Association and faculty from several Colleges including, Fine Arts, Health and Human Services, Education, Business, and Arts & Sciences. External members include League of Women Voters Kalamazoo Area, the City, Township and County of Kalamazoo Clerks and Oshtemo Township Clerk.
If you are a member of the WMU community and are interested in serving on the WeVote committee, you can read about the expectations of committee members here.
Please contact us if you are interested in volunteering in any capacity.