Emory campuses recognized for increased student voter turnout in midterm elections

By Taylor Spicer | Emory Report | Dec. 4, 2019

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Representatives from Emory’s Atlanta and Oxford campuses accepted awards recognizing high student participation in the 2018 midterm elections. Shown are Jessica Wang, programs coordinator, transportation; Katie Vigilante, senior lecturer, political science, Oxford College; and Taylor Spicer, programs manager, sustainability.

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In fall 2018, Emory students, faculty and staff were involved in the midterm elections at higher rates than ever before: they registered to vote at campus events, submitted absentee ballots, boarded Emory Votes Cliff Shuttles and were walked by volunteers to nearby polls. 

These efforts were coordinated by a developing, nonpartisan network of student government bodies, administrators, staff, students and faculty that has since solidified into the Emory Votes Initiative, focused on helping the Emory community increase its civic engagement. 

These coordinated efforts and the resolve of students to participate in the political process led to Emory’s recent recognition during the 2019 ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge awards ceremony. The challenge encourages higher education institutions to help students form the habits of active and informed citizenship, and make democratic participation a core value on their campus.

At Emory’s Atlanta campus, more than 41% of students turned out to vote (an increase of 23% from the 2014 midterm election), earning a gold seal for the campus. Emory’s Oxford campus saw its student voter turnout rate increase to more than 28% of the student population, earning a bronze seal for the campus. A full list of seal awardees can be viewed here

“One of the most important roles of the modern university is to educate students to be fully engaged members of our democracy,” says Suzanne Onorato, assistant vice president of Campus Life. “The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge is an important step toward that goal. Participating in the challenge also undergirds Emory’s strategic focus on Atlanta as a gateway to the world.”

“We are excited to honor Emory University’s campuses with ALL IN Challenge gold and bronze seals in recognition of their intentional efforts to increase democratic engagement and full voter participation,” says Jennifer Domagal-Goldman, executive director of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. “More institutions like Emory are changing culture on campus by institutionalizing nonpartisan democratic engagement efforts that are resulting in the incredible student voter turnout rates that we’ve seen across the country.” 

Furthering a culture of civic engagement

Although Emory witnessed impressive increases in student voter turnout last year, Emory Votes Initiative members continue working toward a more civically engaged campus by increasing voter education, providing awareness programs and empowering voters with informed political resources.

Toward that end, Emory began using TurboVote, a system intended to improve voter education and awareness by providing timely, local registration and voting information based upon the voter’s registration address. All Emory University and Healthcare staff, students and faculty are encouraged to sign up through the system to receive voter alerts. More than 700 Emory community members (mostly students) have signed up through TurboVote since its implementation in August 2019.

Next year, Emory Votes Initiative members will assist the entire Emory community with accurately completing Census 2020 starting in April. They also aim to further improve voter education and increase voter access for the 2020 presidential primary election and November presidential election. 

All Emory community members are invited to participate in the initiative. Those interested in joining the network should email EmoryVotesInitiative@gmail.com.