With Tennessee’s voter registration deadline of Tuesday, Oct. 9, fast approaching, MTSU is continuing its all-out efforts to register as many students — and members of the campus community — as possible.
In addition to on-campus tent and table locations where voter registration will be available on Monday, Oct. 8, and Oct. 9, MTSU will fire up initiatives through social media, email blasts, signage and online opportunities.
For the campus community, online buttons are posted on numerous MTSU webpages linking to www.mtsu.edu/amerdem, providing faculty, staff and students the convenience of registering online via the university’s American Democracy Project chapter.
Two contests are fueling the already dynamic civic fervor on campus. One is Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s voter registration campaign challenge to universities across the state. Four- and two-year institutions and private universities are competing for three top prizes for number of students registered, social media presence and campus creativity.
The other competition is sponsored by TurboVote, a function of the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization Democracy Works. Backed by corporations including Amazon, Starbucks, Google and others, the “TurboVote Challenge” aims to help the United States reach 80 percent voter turnout by 2024.
For MTSU to win both of these challenges, students, faculty and staff are encouraged to register through the red “Register to Vote” button at https://mtsu.edu/amerdem/register-to-vote.php.
In June, MTSU introduced the “True Blue Voter Initiative,” a partnership with the Rutherford County Election Commission to help students register to vote in Rutherford County elections or register to vote by absentee ballot in any of Tennessee’s 94 other counties.
For those who haven’t yet registered but want to vote absentee in a home county far from MTSU, registration tents will be available on the lawn of Peck Hall on Oct. 8 and 9. Election officials will register prospective voters in person and help them fill out their absentee applications at the same time.
Long before external contests and the True Blue Voter campaign, however, MTSU was at the forefront in promoting civic awareness and encouraging citizen participation.
“We have always had an aggressive ‘register-to-vote’ program at MTSU, and we will continue to do so,” said Dr. Mary Evins, coordinator of the American Democracy Project for Civic Learning at MTSU.
Monica Haun, a political science major from Knoxville, Tennessee, is president of the student ADP and the university’s Campus Election Engagement Project fellow. The national nonprofit initiative to get students engaged in the electoral process provides Haun with training, webinars and tips on bias-free communication.
Haun said she thinks the youth vote will increase in the upcoming midterm elections on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
“I think people are realizing how important it is to vote and that their vote does matter,” Haun said. “I’d be really surprised if it stayed stagnant, just because there has been so much change in Tennessee and nationally.”
Evins noted that, as part of the True Blue Voter Initiative, Rutherford County Election Commission Chairman Alan Farley’s office registered almost 200 incoming students all summer long at CUSTOMS orientation sessions.
Registration efforts have been underway on campus since Aug. 27, the first day of fall classes, including during MTSU’s Constitution Day celebration Sept. 17, during Hargett’s Sept. 21 visit to campus and on National Voter Registration Day Sept. 25.
The ADP and University Provost Mark Byrnes took the lead this fall, asking faculty to take 10 to 15 minutes at the beginning of each class to ask students to register to vote on their digital devices. Tennessee legislators enacted online voter registration in 2017.
According to the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, 44.5 percent of MTSU students voted in 2016, a .5 percent increase from 2012. The 2016 voting rate for all institutions of higher learning participating in the study was 50.4 percent.
Haun said she thinks social media will be a key factor this year.
“It’s on our Facebook; it’s on our Twitter; it’s on our Instagram,” Haun said. “It’s everywhere, because people are posting about going to protests or posting articles that they found interesting, which, I think, is very new to our society.”
Those who want who avoid lines at the polls on Election Day, the early voting period in Tennessee will run from Oct. 17 through Nov. 1.
Along with the special registration tents, new voters also can register during regular business hours through Oct. 9 at the following MTSU locations:
• American Democracy Project headquarters, Room 221, Paul W. Martin Honors Building.
• Albert Gore Research Center, Room 128, Todd Hall.
• Center for Educational Media, Room 101S, McWherter Learning Resources Center.
• John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies office, Room 238, Bragg Media and Entertainment Building.
• James E. Walker Library atrium.
For more information, contact Evins at 615-904-8241 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Dia Cirillo, president of the Murfreesboro branch of the American Association of University Women, at President@AAUW-Murfreesboro.org; or the League of Women Voters of Tennessee at 629-777-5677 or email@example.com.
For information about the True Blue Voter Initiative, including links to voter eligibility details, visit http://mtsu.edu/TrueBlueVoter.
— Gina Logue (firstname.lastname@example.org)