The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge awarded Oakland University a gold seal for its student voting rate ranging between 40 and 49%.
The award is due to OU’s 47.4% voting rate in the 2018 midterm elections, a 22.4% increase from voting rates in the 2014 midterm elections, according to data from the Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE).
“I think it is amazing,” Destinee Rule, president of the Oakland University Student Congress (OUSC), said about the 47.4% rate. “As someone who values political engagement, I am personally really happy to see our peers participating a lot. As an organization, Student Congress has made voting and voter engagement a priority of ours, so it is really nice to see our work and the collaborations that we have had come to fruition.”
The OUSC is one of the many political organizations at OU working to turn students into engaged voters, doing so in a variety of ways.
“We try and host debate watch parties as often as we can,” Rule said. “There, we encourage friendly debate and friendly discourse about the candidates and the policies. We try to partner with some of the political organizations on campus like the College Democrats and College Republicans.”
Known as the place to get free scantrons and blue books, the OUSC also helps students register to vote. Ethan Bradley, OUSC civic affairs director, works with students at the OUSC’s Oakland Center (OC) office and at Vandenberg Hall to help them complete voter registration forms.
Aside from working with partisan clubs and hosting watch parties, the OUSC partners with the OU Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) to help put on politically focused events.
“There is good and bad with it,” David Dulio, political science professor and CCE director, said about the 47.4% rate. “The good news is that it was up more than 20 points, the bad news is that it is under 50%. We still have a lot of students that are not participating at the ballot box, and the goal is to try and keep bumping that up.”
The last time a majority of OU students participated in an election was when 56.7% of students voted in the 2016 presidential election.
The CCE and OUSC have plans on getting more students politically active through a series of events culminating in a mock Democatic Party caucus. Based off of the Iowa Democratic Party’s caucus, students will take to the OC’s Banquet Rooms on March 3 to throw support behind their preferred Democratic candidate. Unlike the official Michigan primary, votes are casted by physically grouping together and showing everyone which candidate has the most grassroots support.
“Doing it Iowa caucus-style will be eye opening for students,” Dulio said. “It is also much more participatory.”
The CCE will be hosting the pannel “Human Trafficking: Myths vs. Reality” on Jan. 27 at 6 p.m. in OC Banquet Room A, a showing of “The Ides of March” on Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m. at 47 N. Saginaw St. in Pontiac and the presentation “Respect and Rebellion: Maintaining Relationships with Those who Disagree With You” on Feb. 6 at 6 p.m. in The Habitat.