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ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge recognizes IU Bloomington’s voter participation plan

May 9, 2024

Elected officials from the courthouse to the White House will be decided by the ballots in November. For many students on the Indiana University Bloomington campus, this will be their first time to cast their vote, and the university has resources and opportunities in place to encourage them in their civic duty.

IU Bloomington received the ALL IN Campus Voting Challenge 2024 Highly Established Action Plan Seal. IU Bloomington received the ALL IN Campus Voting Challenge 2024 Highly Established Action Plan Seal.As part of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, IU Bloomington earned the nationally acclaimed Highly Established Action Plan Seal recognizing the campus’s efforts and dedication to increasing nonpartisan civic engagement. This includes promoting civic learning, political engagement and student voter participation.

“We want to do everything we can to reduce barriers to student voting,” said Lisa-Marie Napoli, director of IU’s PACE, the Political and Civic Engagement program in the College of Arts and Sciences. “We want to make it as accessible, informative and encouraging for them as possible.

“Research shows that if young people get registered to vote early and start to pay attention to issues and get involved, their commitment and their civic engagement tends to be stronger and becomes a lifelong pattern.”

Napoli, who also serves as founding chair of the campus’s Big Ten Voting Challenge steering committee, organized the action plan alongside her co-chair, Mark Fraley, and multiple university partners.

The plan aims to empower student leaders to engage with peers, activate campus and community stakeholders, and promote positive messaging to encourage democratic engagement and ultimately increase voter turnout.

In 2016, the voter participation rate on campus was 42.5%. It increased to 66.9% in 2020, and their goal for the 2024 election is to achieve a 75% participation rate at IU Bloomington.

To get there, the campus is building on initiatives like a partnership with TurboVote. Led by the IU Student Government, the partnership simplifies voter registration and explains absentee voting information. The Big Ten Voting Challenge steering committee also created a one-stop-shop website that includes information about local candidates, links to city council forums and more.

The action plan also expands on efforts to engage students in healthy discussions on election-related issues. PACE currently holds two forums each year where students participate in democratic deliberations on issues they select. The “Talk Democracy” series also brings on- and off-campus groups and government organizations together for nonpartisan voter education conversations.

Lisa-Marie Napoli Lisa-Marie Napoli“We’re looking at the value of dialogue within democratic engagement processes, having conversations to learn about what you need to bring to the polls and then just having dialogue about candidates and issues that are going to be on the ballot,” Napoli said.

“Some of these conversations are going to be really hard and contentious; some of them are easier and lighter. But across the board, you really need the skills to talk about those tensions and challenging issues in a way that is respectful, open and curious so you can support productive conversations.”

Resources and election events are also promoted throughout the year. On campus, tabling events are staffed at Wells Library and the Indiana Memorial Union to answer students’ questions about voter registration, offer candidate information resources and more. Similar efforts are made in the community at events like Pridefest and the Bloomington Farmers’ Market.

The action plan outlines transportation and voting assistance as well. PACE hosted the Walk 2 Vote event celebrating the first day of early voting; students met at Dunn Meadow to walk together to Monroe County Election Central and cast their vote. Promotions will highlight the free rides being offered through Uber on Election Day. The IMU also serves as a voting site for Monroe County on Election Day, so students, faculty and staff can submit their vote right on campus.

Students line up to vote at the Indiana Memorial Union on the IU Bloomington campus for the 2018 election, the first to feature a polling... Students line up to vote at the Indiana Memorial Union on the IU Bloomington campus for the 2018 election, the first to feature a polling location within the IMU. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

The Highly Established Action Plan designation by the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge celebrates all these aspects of nonpartisan democratic engagement, and Napoli said it has encouraged the campus to grow and improve to better support students.

“The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge has pushed us to think about things much more deeply,” she said. “The action plan is a document that shows we’ve embedded it in the infrastructure and that we want to affect culture change and make it sustainable.

“Within political and civic engagement is every aspect of our lives. It’s clean water. It’s being able to communicate. It’s policy and politics, and it really does structure everything that exists. So to know how to be a part of that, to know how to have an impact and a voice to collaborate and advocate for things that are important and that affect everyone around us is absolutely critical.”

Author

University Communications and Marketing

Elizabeth Cotter

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