In a normal calendar year, faculty in higher education will write a detailed plan at the beginning of the year to map out how to encourage student voting. Considering the pandemic hit last year in March, relatively early in the year, the designation plan had to be rewritten.
This meant no more in-person voting booths or tables to encourage students to vote. All efforts had to change and adapt – and fast.
“Everything we were going to do in previous years, we couldn’t do in the same way,” Amy Koeckes, associate director of the University’s Center for Student Engagement, said. “We had to rework every plan that we had in addition to informing everybody of the new election rules.”
Even with the challenges brought on by the virus, the University was still able to cope and even thrive.
According to The National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, the student voting rate of 55.9% during the 2016 presidential election, increased to an 84% voter turnout in the 2020 presidential election. Essentially, more students and young Nevadans were registered to vote in the most recent election than ever before.
Online canvassing works
In the beginning, many faculty members saw the pandemic as a hindrance to campus voting life. As it turns out, students and staff found that online canvassing such as online Zoom sessions and encouraging students to vote via social media or text had a huge impact on voter registration for the 2020 election.
One of the biggest and newest contributions to the voting landscape on campus was the Voters Summit.
“This coalition included a representative from every higher education institution in Nevada," Koeckes said. "We held monthly meetings, shared resources, hosted speakers from national organizations and planned the Voters Summit. This was the first time Nevada institutions worked collectively to change the student voting landscape in our state."
As seen through student voter turnout, the University has made significant strides to empower student voices and encourage them to participate in political elections to practice their rights and their democracy. All of these efforts from both the University and the students within it, helped lead to the historic youth voter turnout of 2020.
“It may be our third time winning this award,” Koeckes said. “Every year we are expanding our outreach to better suit the students, faculty and staff.”