NIU is excited to participate in the ALL IN Democracy Challenge, a campus-wide effort to encourage Huskies to get involved in the election process and improve overall civic engagement.
“Civic engagement is something that is incredibly important in a healthy democracy,” said Matt Streb, NIU Chief of Staff to the president, political science professor and Democracy Challenge steering committee chair. “I think it’s important that college students in particular are exposed to voting because we know that people are habitual voters; once we get them into the voting booth they often return in future elections.”
Voting in local, state and national elections is an important right – and responsibility — for all citizens. NIU encourages the Huskie community to participate in the electoral process by registering to vote and voting in upcoming elections.
“This nonpartisan effort is about educating people, many who will be voting in their first presidential election,” Streb said. “The ALL IN Democracy Challenge is about teaching them why voting is important and getting them to have good civic engagement habits going forward.”
Lynne Kunde, election judge coordinator for DeKalb County, said the university’s efforts are important for the election process.
“Older individuals who have been voting for years know how things work, but the younger generation that hasn’t voted before needs to be educated,” Kunde said. “There isn’t a civics lesson that teaches people how to register and how to vote; the more we can make information available the better it will be for everyone.”
Michaela Holtz, director, Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning, shared the sentiment.
“Our students’ generation is the most educated, digitally connected and diverse, and yet the least represented in the elections,” said Holtz, Democracy Challenge steering committee member. “Teaching about and exposing students to their role as active citizens – and helping them to find connections between their education, interests and the impact their votes have on their communities, nation, and the world – is just as important as their degree and career success after graduation.”
A 12-member steering committee is developing an action plan that will be available to the public on the Huskies Vote website. The action plan includes four key areas of focus: general voter information; voter registration effort and information; voter education; and get out and vote efforts. It will be released by December 15, 2019.
“The purpose of the Challenge and NIU’s action plan is ultimately to increase student voting rates and help students form habits indicative of active and informed citizens,” said steering committee member, Meg Junk, coordinator for Signature Programs and Event Administrator for Student Affairs. “We have been really excited by the wide-spread support that the committee has received from faculty and staff across campus as we have reached out to ask for committee support and partnerships.”
That support includes more roughly 20 campus organizations signing up as voter registration information partners, and more than 40 staff members being trained as official deputy registrars.
Holtz said since the beginning the reaction from the campus community has been encouraging.
“There is an incredibly positive energy around campus related to this initiative among students, faculty, and staff,” Holtz said. “I work with a group of highly engaged faculty who have already been including information on voter registration and civic engagement into their classes for years and are committed to help us develop classroom resources and workshops on voter education as it relates to difference disciplines.”
The voter education subcommittee is taking the resources currently being used in classrooms and cataloguing them for others to use.
Faculty and staff can also get involved by joining a subcommittee, becoming a deputy registrar or election judge or providing information on voter registration in their classes. The action plan will be released December 15 and will continue to evolve on a regular basis.
“We will continue to add to it and expand it,” Junk said. “After the elections are over, our commitment as a campus to increasing our students’ awareness and understanding of being an active citizen will not be over.”
To learn more about NIU’s participation in the Democracy Challenge, go to go.niu.edu/Huskies-Vote.
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