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NIU is ALL IN on democracy challenge

September 14, 2020

With the Nov. 3 presidential election just around the corner this fall, NIU has received a glowing review of its ongoing Huskies Vote effort to promote civic awareness among students, increase political participation and instill the value of lifelong voter participation.

The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, a national non-partisan initiative, categorized NIU’s action plan as “established”—the highest rating possible.

“Great plan!” wrote one reviewer, adding that NIU is creating resources that other college campuses might want to consider implementing. “You have a lot of fantastic strategies.”

With support from across campus and beyond, a 12-member steering committee developed and is coordinating the Huskies Vote effort.

NIU has already implemented substantial portions of its plan, with a wealth of information provided on the extensive Huskies Vote website. It includes listings of upcoming events, candidate information, a link for students to register to vote and answers to frequently asked questions.

The university also is engaging students through voter registration drives, digital signage, social justice education programming, a Get Out the Vote social media campaign and more.

“If you vote once, you’ll be more engaged to vote again,” says steering committee member Sandy Lopez of the Office of Academic Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

“We want to make sure our Huskies learn about the process,” she adds. “Oftentimes, people feel their vote doesn’t matter, but it does. We want to make sure our students know how to cast a ballot for the issues and people they care about.”

More than 300 college campuses submitted 2020 action plans, important steps toward institutionalizing nonpartisan democratic engagement at their institutions. Additionally, more than 160 college and university presidents and chancellors, including NIU President Lisa Freeman, have committed to full student voter registration and voter participation of eligible students in all elections through the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge’s Presidents’ Commitment.

Key NIU goals for its effort include:

  • Increasing the percentage of students who registered to vote from 72.6% in 2018 to 80% in 2020.
  • Increasing the percentage of students who voted from 50.1% in 2016 to 55% in 2020.

“Our Huskies Vote effort includes dozens of faculty, staff, students, administrators and community partners, who are doing an outstanding job on this non-partisan initiative,” said steering committee chair Matt Streb, a political scientist and chief of staff for President Freeman.

“It’s great to see college students at NIU and nationwide becoming more and more engaged in the political process,” he added. “We’re excited about our ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge effort because, for many of our students, this will be their first time voting in a presidential election. Informed and engaged voters make up the heart of a healthy democracy.”