A last-minute push just days before the Tennessee deadline for voter registration has netted impressive results.
The American Democracy Project at MTSU reports that the university’s tentative student voter registration count for all of 2018 is 1,070 newly registered voters.
“Voter registration on campus this fall, in this interim election year, has been, in my experience, unprecedented,” said Dr. Mary Evins, ADP coordinator and an associate professor of history at the university.
The total does not reflect students who registered online via special links on MTSU webpages from April 2018 through Sept. 16, 2018, those who registered via GoVoteTN.com, or those who were funneled into the Tennessee online portal via websites such as CampusVoteProject, TurboVote or ProudVoter.
“Adding voter registration to fall course registration began our registration drive with important civic thinking, demonstrating our university’s commitment to student voting,” Evins said.
In June, MTSU also introduced the True Blue Voter Initiative, a partnership with the Rutherford County Election Commission to assist students with registering to vote in Rutherford County elections or registering to vote by absentee ballot in any of Tennessee’s 94 other counties.
The commission sent representatives to campus during summer CUSTOMS new student orientation sessions as well during the Oct. 8-9 final registration push to certify in-person registrations for students who want to vote absentee.
Alan Farley, Rutherford County administrator of elections, said 195 incoming students registered during CUSTOMS, and his office counted an additional 112 paper registrations this week during the final two days of the registration drive.
“I hope that everyone will now make the effort to cast their vote and make their voice heard. Registering is just the beginning part of the electoral process,” Farley said.
Other state and national partners in the registration effort include ProudVoter, CivicTN, Campus Election Engagement Project — also known as CEEP — and All In Challenge, which provided volunteers with resources and training.
“I am so proud of the MTSU student body for showing up and registering to vote,” said Monica Haun, student president of the ADP at MTSU and the university’s CEEP fellow. “I have met so many students who are excited about being civically engaged and are passionate about various issues.”
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.
Evins cautioned that the campus will receive the hard data in summer of 2019 when the National Study of Voting, Learning and Engagement releases its 2018 report.
“What we want, though, is more voters,” Evins said. “So our next challenge is to assist any out-of-county registrants with absentee balloting and especially to create great on-campus excitement to get students to the polls.”
The early voting period in Tennessee is from Wednesday, Oct. 17, through Thursday, Nov. 1. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.
For more information, contact Evins at 615-904-8241 or firstname.lastname@example.org or the Rutherford County Election Commission at 615-898-7743 or email@example.com.
— Gina Logue (firstname.lastname@example.org)