University joins Big Ten Voting Challenge

Monday, September 18, 2017 - 5:39pm

University students wait in line to vote in the presidential election in the Union November 2016.

University students wait in line to vote in the presidential election in the Union November 2016. Buy this photo
File Photo/Daily

The University of Michigan is used to winning competitions in various schools and departments, but the one it's entering now isn't exactly about academics.

Instead, University President Mark Schlissel is calling upon students to take part in a Big Ten Conference competition to help increase voter turnout rates.

“I invite you to take part and help the University of Michigan – and our society – win,” Schlissel wrote in an email circulated to the entire University community Sunday morning, focusing on the importance of voter turnout. This comes as no surprise as the state is approaching the 2018 midterm election cycle next academic year.

Over the course of the next year, the Big Ten Voting Challenge will take place across all 14 universities within the Big Ten Conference, ending with the results of turnout rates among students for the 2018 Midterm election cycle.

Two awards will be given, one to the institution that yields the highest percentage of eligible voter turnout for the fall 2018 midterm elections and another to the one that has the best overall improvement in voter turnout in comparison to the 2014 elections.

In order to track how many students each university is registering, the Big Ten Voter Challenge has paired with the online voter registering system TurboVote to show how many students from each university have registered by selecting their respective university when signing up online.

The system, which streamlines the process of registering to vote, allows students to register in their respective districts and states in which they normally reside when not at college.

At the latest Central Student Government meeting, CSG President Anushka Sarkar, an LSA senior, clarified some concerns about the system.

“We will not be encouraging people to be registered to vote in Michigan or Ann Arbor if this is not their regular residence because there are ethical concerns,” Sarkar said.

In collaboration with CSG, the Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning has taken initiative in assisting students with the online process of registering to vote in their respective states and districts where they reside.

With National Voter Registration Day approaching Sept. 26, CSG will be canvassing on the Diag throughout the day urging students to register to vote.

Last year, after a voter registration campaign led on the Northwestern University campus called “NU Votes,” a record 96 percent of freshman students were registered to vote, whereas beforehand less than half of freshmen were registered to vote according to an NU Votes volunteer.