September 26, 2019
Saginaw Valley State University leaders determined to engage more students in casting their votes during the 2018 election helped those students find their voice, a new study shows.
A September report by The Institute for Democracy & Higher Education — housed at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life — shows the percentage of SVSU students voting doubled during the 2018 election compared to the 2014 election, from 18.4% to 36.8% last year. An upward trend in election participation was experienced at higher education institutions across the nation, the report showed.
“I was really excited to see a spike at the university level and nationwide,” said Riley Hupfer, director of SVSU’s Center for Community Engagement. “It represents a strong commitment by our university and youth in our country to be part of the voting process.”
SVSU’s Center for Community Engagement — supported by student Democracy Fellows with the university’s Cardinals Vote initiative, a nonpartisan effort dedicated to connecting SVSU students with opportunities to engage in the democratic system — organized a number of voter registration drives leading up to November 2018, Hupfer said.
Cardinals Vote involved co-sponsoring Secretary of State mobile unit appearances on campus, advocating for registration at campus events, and recruiting other student groups and community members to advocate for voter registration.
Hupfer said more than 500 students registered to vote as a direct result of Cardinals Vote, but it’s likely the number was higher.
The Institute for Democracy & Higher Education reported other positive trends at SVSU. The study indicated the voter registration rate for SVSU students increased from 60% in 2014 to 67.1% in 2018; and the voting rate of registered students climbed from 30.6% to 54.8% during the same span.
“We’re not done,” Hupfer said of the program’s plans for the 2020 election. “We want to exceed what we did in 2018.”
SVSU was one of more than 1,000 higher education institutions to participate in The Institute for Democracy & Higher Education’s report, titled the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE).
The national NSLVE report can be read online at https://idhe.tufts.edu/2018data.