Since the first day of fall semester classes, MTSU professor Mary Evins and her team of student and community volunteers have been hard at work on their goal — to register Blue Raider students to vote and prepare them with a voting plan.
So far, the team has registered over 400 students since the first day of fall semester in late August. They want more.
“We want 100% of our MTSU students to register and to vote this fall,” said Evins, a professor of history and coordinator of the university’s chapter of the American Democracy Project.
Everyone — students and community members alike — can still register to vote for the Nov. 8 gubernatorial, congressional and state elections up until the registration deadline at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, online at https://mtsu.edu/vote.
To promote registration on campus and in person, ADP members and supporters are providing students and community members with several locations between now and end of day on Friday, Oct. 7, before the start of the university’s fall break:
• Voter registration tents that will be placed along the main thoroughfares of campus from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday (except Friday, Sept. 23).
• The American Democracy Project office, Room 221 in the Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.
• The Albert Gore Research Center, Todd Hall Room 126, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday.
• The Center for Educational Media, Room 101S of the McWherter Learning Resources Center, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.
College competition is fierce
Evins said MTSU student voter participation has shot up 50 percentage points since 2014 to reach 65% of MTSU students voting in the 2020 election, according to data from the National Study of Learning Voting and Engagement.
She emphasized, however that the participation percentage needs to increase again this election cycle for MTSU to dominate in its voter participation competitions against Western Kentucky University and as part of both the Conference USA Voting Challenge and the Tennessee secretary of state’s College Voter Registration Competition.
“It’s not just registration that’s key to voter turnout,” Evins said. “Research shows that people vote in greatest numbers if they vote where they live and where they sleep during the work week. When you go to one of our on-campus registration tables to register to vote, volunteers will help every student make a personal voting plan.”
Evins said the university has helped to encourage voter registration by reaching out to student organizations.
“The university wants every MTSU student organization to be sure that every single one of its members gets registered and for every club to sign up to take a day on campus, under our voter-registration tent, for its members to work proactively to assist all the other MTSU students to get registered. There’s still time to do that,” she said.
‘Your voice matters’
Community organizations have also pitched in to get students registered. From the very first week of the fall semester, the American Association of University Women and the Murfreesboro-Rutherford County League of Women Voters members have worked under the tent. Both organizations were on campus helping with registration on Sept. 20, National Voter Registration Day.
Kayla Jenkins, graduate public history student and Evins’ graduate research assistant, has set up the voter registration tent almost every morning since Aug. 22. She volunteers her time as part of her research assistant work and because she knows getting young people registered to vote is important for the survival of democracy.
“I firmly believe that if we want to see positive change in our society, we can’t wait for others to act for us,” Jenkins said. “We have to put the work in ourselves.”
Jenkins encouraged students who are ambivalent about voting to think about the act as their civic duty with far-reaching effects on their community.
“Do it for them, if not for yourself,” Jenkins said. “Don’t look back in a few years and realize that you could have done something to help but chose not to do it. Your voice matters, and democracy works best when we all participate.”
For more information about the American Democracy Project at MTSU, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://mtsu.edu/amerdem.
— Stephanie Barrette (Stephanie.Barrette@mtsu.edu)