UO joins Pac-12 Voter Challenge to help spur election turnout

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UO students, faculty members and staff can up their voter engagement game through Pac-12 Voter Challenge.

The deadline for registering to vote in Oregon is Oct. 13, and ballots will begin hitting mail boxes a few days afterwards. To encourage more people to register and turn out to vote, the University of Oregon has joined the All IN Campus Democracy challenge to encourage greater student participation in voting and civic life.

According to the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, in 2016 78.8 percent of UO students eligible to vote registered and 73.2 percent followed through and voted. In 2016 the national voting rate for students at all institutions in the study was 50.4 percent. The national group’s most recent report on UO students is available online.

UO leaders are finding new ways to encourage UO students to engage in the voting process. This past summer President Michael H. Schill and his Pac-12 university president peers signed on to the Pac-12 Voting Challenge. The Associated Students of the University of Oregon is a partner in the initiative.

Coordinated by the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, the Pac-12 Voting Challenge is a fun way to encourage a new generation of civic-minded individuals through increasing voter registration and turnout of students at universities that regularly compete in the Division 1 conference.

Participation is accomplished by a pledge that students, faculty members and staff can take to register and make a plan to vote. In addition, results from 2020 participation is analyzed and published in future reports from the national voting study.

Jennifer Domagal-Goldman, executive director of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, said initiatives like the Pac-12 Voting Challenge and the other ALL IN athletic conference voting challenges encourage students to become lifelong voters.

“Engagement with the Pac-12 institutions reinforces the idea that voting is a nonpartisan life skill that should be introduced early and often to all college students, supporting them to be active and informed participants in our democracy,” she said.

Taking part in the Pac-12 Voting Challenge is not the only way the UO community can register and pledge to vote.

The Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, known as OSPIRG, launched voter registration and engagement efforts in classes and among student groups through the New Voter Project. In the spring and summer, interns outreached to 2,000 students to make sure they had a plan to vote.

Last spring, students helped launch the Ducks Vote coalition with 20 student clubs. Currently, OSPIRG and student-athletes are collaborating on the Keep it 100 program.

OSPIRG is also making virtual class and club register-to-vote announcements, doing peer-to-peer outreach via social networks, and building visibility on social media. After the Oregon voter registration deadline on Oct. 13 they will call, text and email newly registered students to remind them to vote and make sure they know how to return their ballots.

Campus partners in voter engagement efforts include the Associated Students of the University of Oregon, OSPIRG, Office of the President, Division of Equity and Inclusion, Multicultural Center, Holden Center, Department of Intercollegiate Athletics’ “Keep It 100” initiative, and Government and Community Relations.