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MSIs are ‘Turning Student Activism into Votes’

Several minority serving institutions (MSIs) highlighted in a new report from the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) at the University of Pennsylvania are mobilizing their students to vote and become engaged around political issues, despite barriers that keep students away from the polls.

MSI students and leaders are encouraging student voting and civic engagement through student-led marches, voting coalitions and voter registration campaigns, opportunities to volunteer during elections and in the community, institutional designations as early-voting sites and emphasis on voter education, according to the report titled Spotlight on MSIs: Turning Student Activism into Votes.

Andrew MartinezAndrew Martinez

“Over the past couple of years, there has been an emphasis on needing to engage young adults to register and vote. This population is among the largest of eligible voters, and research has shown that college-educated citizens are a lot more likely to vote,” said Andrew Martinez, one of the report’s lead authors and a research associate at CMSI. “We hope that this report inspires MSIs and other colleges and universities to minimize the challenges and barriers students often encounter when trying to register and vote.”

Report recommendations for higher education institutions to drive voter mobilization and civic engagement include:

-Reach out to MSIs already engaged in work pertaining to voting and ask for their expertise,

-Introduce voter registration and discuss voting with new students during orientation,

-Participate in the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, which guides colleges and universities through the steps needed to be fully engaged,

-Partner with TurboVote to help students get registered, request absentee ballots and receive election reminders and notifications,

-Ask local, regional and national candidates to come to campus to debate issues and register students to vote at these events,

-Encourage faculty and staff on campus to have information about voting readily available in their offices,

-Work with student organizations engaged in volunteerism to drive local elderly to the polls,

-Ensure that students are fully aware and educated on their rights as students to vote in the local community,

-If you are not already a polling site or are still in the process of becoming one during an election, post information throughout campus and online about where students can vote,

-Track voting on your campus and learn what efforts are most effective in getting students to vote.

“Institutions need to think of innovative, effective ways to engage their students and the local community,” said Martinez, who is also a current Ph.D. student at UPenn. “Our research on MSIs demonstrates the power that these schools can have during an election and we hope that they use this information to empower their students to make it to the polls.”

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