UNI voter turnout top among IA public universities

ELIZABETH KELSEY, News Editor

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UNI had the highest voter turnout among Iowa’s three public universities for the 2018 midterm elections, according to a recent announcement from Iowa Campus Compact’s Iowa Voting Challenge.

According to the organization’s website, the statewide challenge was the result of a 2018 partnership between Iowa Campus Compact and the nationwide ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. Fourteen Iowa campuses participated. According to recently released data from the National Survey on Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE), UNI’s voter turnout rate for the 2018 midterm elections was 46.2 percent, besting fellow public universities Iowa State and the University of Iowa.

UNI’s participation in the Iowa Voting Challenge is just part of the university’s overall plan to increase voter turnout, which began in 2018 when UNI joined the ALL IN Challenge, in which more than 550 universities currently participate. As a Challenge member, UNI was required to develop and implement an action plan to increase voter turnout, as measured by the NSLVE.

One of the key tenets of that action plan for the 2018 midterm elections was the #PanthersVote coalition, a collaboration between NISG, academic departments and student organizations. The initiative was launched on Sept. 24, 2018, according to an article from the Northern Iowan. Member organizations used voter drives, community presentations, social media campaigns and classroom visits to help students get registered to vote.

Turnout was already substantial at that time: upon joining ALL IN in 2018, UNI was retroactively awarded the Silver Seal award for garnering 67.5 percent voter participation in the 2016 presidential election, according to an October 2018 article from the Northern Iowan.

However, members of the #PanthersVote coalition had also acknowledged that the 2018 midterm election would likely garner lower voter turnout rates than the much-publicized 2016 presidential election. Professor of political science Justin Holmes, who was involved in the formation of #PanthersVote and wrote the UNI action plan for the ALL IN Challenge, stated in the Oct. 2018 article that the coalition’s goal for the 2018 midterm elections was a 40 percent voter turnout at UNI. This would have been a 10 percent increase from the university’s 2014 midterm election voter turnout.

UNI surpassed that goal with its 46.2 percent turnout rate, marking a 16.5 percent increase from 2014, according to the press release.

“UNI students care. Our record shows that UNI students care about voting,” said 2019 UNI graduate Brenna Wolfe, one of the leaders of the #PanthersVote initiative.

In preparation for the 2020 presidential election, #PanthersVote plans to hold another voter registration campaign and a mock caucus before the Iowa caucuses in February.

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