As the 2018 midterm elections approach, MTSU is announcing a dynamic new program to boost the civic participation of college students.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU Board of Trustees Chairman Stephen Smith and Rutherford County Election Commission Administrator Alan Farley introduced the “True Blue Voter Initiative” Tuesday, June 12, at the Miller Education Center in Murfreesboro.
The True Blue Voter Initiative is designed to engage students in civic participation and leadership through voting. The Rutherford County Election Commission will provide expertise to inform MTSU students about absentee voting and voter registration.
Farley said the True Blue Voter Initiative represents a “model partnership” between MTSU and the Election Commission. However, he stressed that this effort extends beyond just Rutherford, adding that they can assist students in registering to cast ballots, including absentee ballots, in any Tennessee county.
Throughout the summer CUSTOMS orientation sessions and other events in the fall semester leading up to the Nov. 6 election, the Rutherford County Election Commission, the MTSU Student Government Association and the leadership of the MTSU American Democracy Project will help students with registration procedures and voting practices.
The primary task of the partnership is to help students become successful voters through individualized processes that best fit their circumstances.
“Chairman Smith envisioned a partnership model with MTSU and the Rutherford County Election Commission working together to promote student voter registration,” Farley said.
“Thanks to his idea, the True Blue Voter Initiative and the booth at CUSTOMS orientation are mitigating the roadblocks and efficiently launching MTSU students as active citizens and registered voters.”
Increasing student voter participation
According to the National Study of Voting, Learning and Engagement, 44.5 percent of MTSU students voted in 2016. That’s an increase from 44 percent in 2012, but it’s still below the national average of 50.4 percent for college students.
McPhee said the university is happy to support this effort to develop “True Blue citizens who value and exercise their right to vote.”
“Civically engaged college students are more likely to carry forward their civic engagement as they move into careers and future home communities, becoming engaged and active citizens for life,” McPhee said.
“The initiative sets an example for other colleges and universities throughout the state to connect with students on campus during events like orientation and in other places where they live and study, making it easy and convenient for them to register to vote,” added Farley.
The True Blue Voter Initiative will build on the success of MTSU’s chapter of the American Democracy Project, led by Dr. Mary Evins, an associate professor of history who teaches in the University Honors College. MTSU is one of more than 250 campuses across the country that promotes civic knowledge and participation through ADP.
“The MTSU American Democracy Project pushes continually to increase student voting, which is an ‘all-in challenge’ across every sector of campus,” Evins said.
“We are absolutely thrilled that the True Blue Voter Initiative is engaging fresh energy from the Rutherford County elections team, our board chair and (MTSU) administration to take on this work with us.”
Board of Trustees chair Smith, who also is an MTSU alumnus, echoed his enthusiasm for the project.
“Active involvement and personal investment in the classroom and in the community are hallmarks of the MTSU experience,” said Smith, also an MTSU alumnus. “It’s what we do!”
For more information about the new True Blue Voter Initiative, visit the website at http://mtsu.edu/truebluevoter or contact Cathy Sgambati, public relations specialist, at 615-898-5348 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Gina K. Logue (email@example.com)