Puget Sound Named National “Voter-Friendly” Campus

March 21, 2017

Students are encouraged and empowered to vote, and learn to
engage with their political representatives

TACOMA, Wash. – University of Puget Sound is one of 83 American campuses in 23 states that have been designated as a “Voter-Friendly Campus.”

The initiative, led by the national nonpartisan organizations Campus Vote Project and NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, held participating institutions accountable for planning and implementing practices that encouraged their students to register and vote in the 2016 general election and for setting goals to keep students politically engaged in the coming years.

The work at Puget Sound was led by the Center for Intercultural and Civic Engagement (CICE). As part of the effort, Puget Sound held debate-watching parties and brown-bag lunches on relevant topics in collaboration with the Department of Politics and Government. Tables were set up where students could register to vote and students from out of state were provided with resources to register and vote in their home states.

In addition Puget Sound created a Voter Engagement Specialist student staff position. The part-time position is solely devoted to voter engagement work and, in 2016, the new staff member contributed greatly to Puget Sound’s preparations for the November election.

One highlight of voter engagement during the year was the College Debate 2016: The Leaders of Today conference at Dominican University of California. About 130 student delegates from around the country came together for a busy weekend to share concerns and ideas around key issues that resonate with younger voters.   

In 2017 Puget Sound’s Alternative Spring Break for students was focused on civil rights and political engagement. Thirteen students undertook educational reading, activities, and discussions to prepare themselves for a recent March visit to Washington, D.C., where they learned about civil rights and how to engage with legislators. 

The submission for the Voter-Friendly Campus designation was compiled by Skylar Bihl, assistant director for civic engagement, Julia Lin ’18, the outgoing voter engagement specialist, and her incoming replacement, Micaela Seaver ’20. University of Puget Sound believes strongly in the civic mission of higher education to prepare students to be engaged participants in our democracy.

The Voter Friendly Campus designation, valid through December 2018, was created to bolster college and university efforts to help students overcome barriers to participating in the political process. The designated institutions represent a wide range of two-year, four-year, public, private, rural, and urban campuses, with a total enrollment of nearly 1.4 million students.

NASPA is the leading association for the advancement, health, and sustainability of the student affairs profession. Its work provides high-quality professional development, advocacy, and research for 15,000 members in all 50 states, 25 countries, and eight U.S. territories.

The Fair Elections Legal Network (FELN) is a national, nonpartisan election reform organization working to remove barriers to registration and voting for traditionally underrepresented constituencies and to improve election administration. FELN’s Campus Vote Project works with universities, community colleges, faculty, students, and election officials to reduce barriers to student voting and helps campuses institutionalize reforms that empower students with the information they need to register and vote.

Photos on page: From top right: Megan Schowalter '17 shares here thesis with Rep. Derek Kilmer in Washington, D.C. (photo by David Wright); Badge for Voter-Friendly Campus; Students on the Alternative Spring Break visiting Congress, pose with Rep. Derek Kilmer (photo by Skylar Bihl)

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