For the third consecutive year, Middle Tennessee State University earned top spot for public universities in Tennessee’s annual College Voter Registration Competition, sponsored by the office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett.
Other schools winning their respective institutional categories include Pellissippi State Community College (two-year community colleges), Cumberland University (private universities) and Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Pulaski (TCATs).
“We are so appreciative of winning this award, but our biggest competition is against ourselves,” said history professor Mary A. Evins, coordinator for the campus chapter of the American Democracy Project, a national civic engagement initiative. “What we’re trying to do is model good citizenship. The way we do that is by maximizing the number of citizens who participate in the voting process.”
Nearly 40 two- and four-year universities and technical colleges participated this year in the contest, which began in 2015. MTSU began participating annually in 2018 in National Voter Registration Month in September.
“Tennessee and our nation are stronger when more eligible Tennesseans are engaged in our electoral process,” Hargett said.
Winners were selected based on points earned by registering students to vote, creating a voter registration campaign for their campus and promoting voter registration on social media using #GoVoteTN along with their campus-specific hashtag.
Hargett applauded all participants: “Everyone who participated in the competition should be proud of their commitment to register their fellow students to vote and increase civic engagement across our great state. With more engaged voters, Tennessee is the ultimate winner in this competition.”
Take note: 2024 a ‘incredibly important election year’
As part of activities during Constitution Week in September, the American Democracy Project set up voter registration tables across campus. The theme for the 2023 civic engagement celebration was “Common Sense Civics: Can We Work Together Again to Solve America’s Problems?” and featured a keynote panel with former U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper and former U.S. Sen. Bob Corker.
Evins said the push to register students during the competition period in September helped lay the groundwork for excelling in student voter participation in 2024.
“Students who get registered to vote in Rutherford County can go to the polls for early voting. We want them to get comfortable with voting, well in advance of the national elections. Then they’ll be prepared and ready to vote in 2024,” said Evins, 2023 recipient of the Barbara Burch Award for Faculty Leadership in Civic Engagement from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. “It’s an incredibly important election year.”
Tennessee’s 2024 election season officially kicks off March 5, dubbed “Super Tuesday,” with presidential preference and state and county primaries. Evins said Super Tuesday occurs during MTSU’s spring break. So she encourages all voters to cast ballots at early voting Feb. 14-27.
Also, all students need to schedule now to attend the Tennessee Campus Democracy Network’s annual statewide campus civic summit, to be held Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, on the MTSU campus. Join college students from across the state in planning for robust student voter turnout in 2024.
State and federal primary and county general elections are set for Aug. 1. Early voting for the summer election is July 12-27. State and federal general elections, including the presidential race, is set for Nov. 5, with early voting set for Oct. 16-31.
To learn more about 2024 voting dates, visit https://www.usvotefoundation.org/tennessee-election-dates-and-deadlines.
“Student voting has a role in shaping the United States (next) fall,” Evins said. “Tennessee’s youngest voters have the possibility to impact the character and quality of the Tennessee General Assembly and United States House of Representatives and Senate.
“Voting is critically important, and students must engage directly in their responsibilities as citizens in our participatory democracy. I reiterate Secretary Hargett: When students vote, Tennessee is the winner.”
For more information about the College Voter Registration Competition and the Secretary of State’s other civic engagement initiatives, visit sos.tn.gov/civics. For more on the efforts of MTSU’s American Democracy Project and the 2024 statewide campus civic summit, visit mtsu.edu/amerdem.
— Nancy DeGennaro (Nancy.DeGennaro@mtsu.edu)