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Engaging Before, During, and after the Midterm Elections

Civic Engagement Region IV-W Region IV-W
November 5, 2018 Brett Bruner Arkansas Tech University

With the mid-term elections just over 1 week away, higher education administrators should be engaging with students and their local communities before, during, and after these elections. Regardless of institutional type, geographic location, or mission or your role, level, or functional area within the institution, the results of the midterm elections can influence the public policy and shape the future of higher education. Below are some strategies to think intentionally about how you can engage before, during, and after the midterm elections:

Engaging Before the Midterm Elections

  • Review the NASPA Public Policy Agenda. As an organization, NASPA strives to advocate for higher education at federal and state levels in support of our students and the student affairs profession. The NASPA Public Policy Division developed the 2017-2020 public policy agenda that outlines key priorities and focus areas to guide members in public policy efforts through the year 2020.
  • Read recent resources, publications, and blog posts from the NASPA Research and Policy Institute. The NASPA Research and Policy Institute (RPI) responds to the ever-changing landscape of public policy at federal and state levels through the development and publication of blog posts, articles, and resources to educate NASPA members on frequent issues. Take a few minutes to read a blog post or two each week to familiarize yourself with the ever-evolving changes within the higher education public policy arena.
  • Educate your students about what to expect when they arrive on Election Day. One of the most challenging barriers for students is to understand how and when to register to vote as well as what they might need to bring with them on election day. While the deadline for voter registration has passed, utilize resources like Campus Vote Project’s Student Guides by State to prepare students to find their voting site and hours, when early voting begins and ends, and what types of identification might need to be brought with them upon arrival to vote.

Engaging During the Midterm Elections

  • On Election Day, it should be our responsibility to model the way for our students and engage in the electoral process. It does not matter which candidate you are voting for, we should take the initiative and exercise our right to vote.
  • Support students to Get Out the Vote on Election Day. NASPA’s Voter Friendly Campus Program provides several ideas on how campuses can work to increase voter turnout on Election Day including sending out campus-wide e-mails, recruiting students to serve as poll workers, providing rides to voting sites, organizing marches to the polls, etc.
  • Engage students in a real-time election watch party. After exercising our right to engage in the electoral process, how will you and your students engage in learning as results come in? Consider working with your campus’s civic engagement office, student government association, and/or American Democracy Project to host an election night watch party as results come in. Invite campus faculty members from your political science department to attend and provide their insight as results are shared live, engaging students in a dialogue. At the conclusion of the night, allow some reflective time for students to process what the results might mean for them.

Engaging After the Midterm Elections

  • Participate in the NASPA Public Policy’s Divisions Virtual Town Hall meeting on November 15 at 1 p.m. Central time/Noon Mountain time to understand what the midterm elections mean for student affairs professionals. The Public Policy Division staff and leadership will discuss what’s changed, where there are still questions, what to expect as we head into a new Congress, the final year of preparations for the 2020 Census, and new state executive and legislative leadership as a result of the midterm elections.
  • Following the midterm elections, document your campus’s efforts using the hashtag #voterfriendlycampus via social media to showcase the promising practices on your campus that you utilized to promote democratic engagement.
  • Debrief with your campus and community colleagues, including your Voter Friendly Campus Designation Coalition (if applicable), to discuss strengths and areas of growth as you begin to plan for subsequent year’s electoral engagement plans.
  • Engage in an intentional discussion with your students how they, too, can be voter advocates as they transition from college students to citizens and contributors to society. What does this mean as they move into their next phase of their lives?
  • Remember to tell the stories as we move into the next legislative cycles at federal, state, and local levels. Legislators want to hear the stories of their constituents. As you think about how you, too, are progressing in your own growth in the NASPA Law, Policy, and Governance competency, think about how you can tell the stories, your own and your students, to advocate and influence public policy within higher education.