UNI receives award for voter registration efforts

The University of Northern Iowa routinely has among the best voter turnout of college campuses in the country, in large part of the registration efforts by campus groups such as UNI Athletics.

DAVID WARRINGTON

This past Tuesday, Nov. 3, was the 2020 general election, with everything ranging from the Black Hawk County sheriff to president of the United States being on the ballot. The athletics department at the University of Northern Iowa worked hard to get the message to student-athletes that they should use their voice and vote for what they believe in. They were rewarded for their hard work when Cedar Valley Character Counts awarded them with the Pursuing Victory with Honor Award.

This award, which is given to an athletics team, coach, student-athlete or organization that demonstrates commitment to sportsmanship and good character, was given to UNI partially because of the work they’ve done with the Ross Initiative for Sports Equality (RISE) organization. RISE is a national nonprofit organization whose goal it is to eliminate racial discrimination in the sports community, as well as improving race relations by becoming more informed and engaged citizens, which they do through education and empowerment. UNI Athletics held a seminar known as “RISE to Vote” where all 400 student-athletes at UNI were instructed on both how to register to vote as well as why they should vote. All of this was part of a year-long effort to increase voter registration among student athletes.

The RISE to Vote event, which was a collaborative effort between the UNI Athletics Department, RISE, League of Women Voters and UNI American Democracy Project, welcomed guest speaker Isaiah Stanback.

Stanback, a graduate of the University of Washington, former NFL player and now a successful entrepreneur, shared the story of his journey, and also encouraged student-athletes to become involved with civic engagement.

Another reason that UNI Athletics received this award was for their effort to turn the UNI-Dome into a polling place. UNI Athletics worked with UNI campus leadership and the Black Hawk County Auditor’s office and opened up the UNI-Dome as a polling place for both early voting, as well as voting on Election Day. This was the first time that the UNI-Dome had ever been opened as a polling place for the general election, and it allowed voters plenty of space to safely social distance while filling out and turning in their ballot.

UNI has routinely had amongst some of the highest voter registration and turnout of college campuses around the country for the last several years, largely because of organizations like UNI Athletics and Panthers Vote getting the word out of the importance of voting during each general election. Most of the time, Northern Iowa’s voting efforts have gone unnoticed, but by receiving this award they are being recognized. The award will likely only further the get-out-and-vote effort in many future elections to come at UNI as well as the surrounding Cedar Valley area.