The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

Students campaign for voter participation

Ahead of the 2024 presidential election, some political science students are working on ways to reach students with voting information. They are look- ing at possible partnerships with UNI Athletics to connect with students.

“Let your voice be heard.”

That’s the message UNI student Grace Croat wants students to know as presidential and congressional elections begin in November. Croat is currently in a political science class preparing for the Panthers Vote campaign – which was established in 2018. The campaign is a non-partisan campaign intended to increase student participation in elections. 

“We’re trying to find the disconnect,” Croat said. “How can we get those people that are motivated to actually show up? We looked at a lot of past research on how candidates motivate their voters, and we’re trying to apply that on campus.”

According to Professor Justin Holmes, the professor leading the class, UNI has a strong tradition of civic engagement. The most recent presidential election in 2020 saw a 73% student voter turnout.

“Representative democracy depends on people voting,” Holmes said. “The whole theoretical underpinning of the American system rests on the consent of those who are governed.”

Holmes said the Panthers Vote campaign is particularly focused on engaging college students who may not be aware of how to register or participate in elections.

“Young people turn out at much lower rates than older people,” Holmes said. “And there’s a lot of reasons for that. One of the big ones is we make it fairly hard. There are a lot of steps to vote for the first time. And so a lot of what we’re looking at is doing kind of educating the campus.”

Faith Larsen, another student in Holmes’ class, said the class has brainstormed many ideas to engage campus. They plan to have a registration table at a football game towards the beginning of next semester, and want to put on a big event for National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 17.

It is important to inform yourself and get out to vote. You know you could have an impact on laws and what happens in our country.

— Sergio Morancy, student member of Panthers Vote campaign

“I think a huge barrier is people just don’t know how to vote and they don’t know what they need to bring,” Larsen said. “I think just spreading that information by any means possible, will probably be the most effective.”

The class is also creating a short informative presentation which will be shown to larger UNIFI classes in order to reach as many students as possible. 

“We want to make it super engaging because people usually don’t want to talk about voter registration,” Croat said. “We are also thinking about collaborating with large student orgs to reach as many people as possible.”

Sergio Morancy, also a student in Holmes’ class, said he is working with Larsen and another student to collaborate with UNI Athletics. As a football player, he said spreading awareness about voter registration to student athletes is an important part of the Panthers Vote campaign.

“We are working in partnership athletics to get out proper information about the importance of voting and how to register,” Morancy said. “It is important to inform yourself and get out to vote. You know you could have an impact on laws and what happens in our country.”

Larsen also emphasized the importance of voter engagement, and said the Panthers Vote campaign hopes to inspire people to engage in voting.

“Voting shows you care about your community,” Larsen said. “It’s that commitment aspect. You’re taking time out of your day to do something that you hope will better the community.”

Morancy also encouraged students to get involved and do their research as elections loom. 

“I used to think, ‘this has nothing to do with me.’ But you can really make a change. Find something out there that you care about, or that you’re passionate about.”

Holmes said participating in civic engagement is especially important on a college campus, and the Panthers Vote campaign is an important part of that mission. 

“We are trying to prepare people to go out and do good things in the world and be productive citizens,” Holmes said. “I think it really aligns with the mission of the university. We want people to be engaged in their world. Ultimately, we’re trying to get people over that hump and encourage them to participate.”

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