Voting challenge encourages community student involvement

Taylor McDaniel, Staff Reporter

Since 2018, the non-partisanship ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, a program of Civil Nation, has graced the campus of Oakland University. The goal of the challenge is to accomplish excellence in student democracy participation by empowering colleges and universities, including OU, according to the challenge’s official website

On Thursday, Nov. 14, the challenge stepped it up a notch. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced earlier this month that the Secretary of State’s office would be partnering with ALL IN for the Michigan Collegiate Voting Challenge for 2020. 

All two-year and four-year colleges and universities throughout Michigan are invited to compete in the challenge. Awards for the highest voter turnout, most improved voter turnout and highest rate of voter registration will be issued in collaboration with Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office. 

Many of the students now attending college or university will be voting in their first presidential election this upcoming November, including Alexandra Travnik, a future OU transfer student. 

Travnik, who is currently finishing up her last semester at Macomb Community College before attending OU, said she is excited to finally have a say in the presidential election, no matter how small her say may be. She also knows plenty of peers who feel the same way, possibly linked to how politics and social media intertwines. 

Social media plays an integral part of politics nowadays, from candidates interacting with the users to current President Donald Trump using his Twitter account as a public forum to announce policies.

“I think [social media] has gotten the message to a lot of younger people just how important voting is because we can share statistics and facts that prove the more voices are heard, the better the results,” Travnik said. 

In joint letters to university and college presidents and chancellors, Whitmer and Benson called on university leadership to utilize their role to create positive change for student voters on their campuses. 

One such group on OU’s campus is the Center for Civil Engagement, led by Director David Dulio, a professor in the Department of Political Science. Dulio expressed doubts that OU will win any of the categories in the Michigan Collegiate Voting Challenge for 2020 due to the student population already being so politically engaged.

“Our rates are already high,” Dulio said. “It would be a lot harder for OU to move up from where we are than it would be for other higher institutions.” 

The center held several events last year, including a candidate forum with 10 state legislative candidates and a debate watch party. Dulio wants people to be informed, which will continue into next year with the upcoming 2020 presidential election. 

One such event to be held in 2020 will be an OU student caucus, similar to the Iowa caucus. Dulio believes the experience will help students absorb knowledge while participating.

“If you’re caucusing, you’re learning while you’re doing,” Dulio said.

Another event will include Respect and Rebellion, in partnership with a nonprofit group of the same name. Speakers who hold opposite opinions will teach the OU community on how to maintain relationships with those who disagree with you. 

“Our institution sees the value in this type of work — not only voter turnout, but democratic engagement, broadly speaking,” Dulio said.