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2020 Election Engagement

Civic Engagement Policy and Advocacy Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement
November 4, 2020 Amy Koeckes Spencer Long Michael McFadden Lindsey Woelker

“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” As we wait for the dust to settle, and await the results of the 2020 Presidential Election, this quote from John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration Address hits home as we reflect upon the efforts of the NASPA: Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Knowledge Community leading up to this ever contentious election. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, campus closures, and huge changes to our daily lives, this important work remained a priority. As a leadership team, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate the ongoing work and dedication we’ve seen from across the association network during such a unique and challenging election cycle.

In partnership with colleagues and organizations, the Knowledge Community has been hard at work to provide resources, updates, and opportunities for our members to participate in discussions on many important topics. Some of the CLDE Knowledge Community achievements and things we did to influence election engagement included:

  • Convened and participated in a national working group of higher education associations and National Directors to provide a unified approach and establish an ongoing communication channel to help with information sharing and election-related updates

  • Hosted a listening session with Students Learn Student Votes Collation on Voting Engagement in COVID-19 on June 11

  • Hosted a listening session with Break Away on Planning Alternative Breaks During a Pandemic on July 16

  • Hosted a session on Census 2020: Insights, Lessons, and Ideas on August 4

  • Hosted a listening session with Tufts University on the New Election Imperatives on September 15

  • Hosted a session titled Get out the Vote: Experience and Insight on Making Everyone’s Voices Heard on September 24 with Campus Vote Project and the Andrew Goodman Foundation

  • Worked with the Student Learn Student Vote Collation to create a one-pager for Democratic Engagement involvement that was shared with our members.

  • The Chair and Vice Chair of the KC were guest on SA Voices in the Field Podcast “Preparing to support students during elections, helping them find their voice

  • Solicited and/or produced the following blogs for our members:

  • Shared on social media information about various national voting initiatives by national partners:  National Voter Registration Day, National Voter Education Week, and Vote Early Day.

While voter engagement and education have been our recent focus, those of us working in Civic Learning and Democratic engagement know that our work is never over.  Just like our democracy, our involvement in this work is constant and requires year-round dedication. Moving forward, we will continue to advocate for the creation and sharing of additional resources and opportunities for our member institutions.

Although we all have a vested interest in the outcome of this election, we can’t lose sight of the tremendous gains we have seen in young people turning out to participate in this election. We already need to be thinking about and planning for the 2022 and 2024 National elections, and all the local elections that happen in between. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that two years from now we will have roughly the same percentage of students who will have never voted in an election before. We will have roughly the same percentage of students who will need to be registered to vote, and in all cases, we will need to continue to provide or direct students to the resources they need to make informed decisions on who they will vote for. As we did in this election, our Knowledge Community will continue to do so for future elections. As we move forward, we need to remember to take time to reflect, but also need to remember that there are many, many other ways to be civically engaged in our communities. Change doesn’t just happen through elections, it also happens through advocacy and working with legislatures, through volunteer work, and through community engagement. It’s hard to see past the current chaos, but the work still goes on and our students (current and future) need us engaged beyond election day to push towards a thriving democracy. 

We always want to highlight the work that is being done by our amazing members and colleagues. If you have something you would like to share, please send us an email at [email protected] or send us a message through social media.

For more regular KC updates, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram at NASPA_CLDEKC or find us on Facebook!  We also send out a monthly newsletter for those that follow our KC in your NASPA Engagement Portal.