Update from the field: Colorado CampusesCampus Election Engagement Project
The Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP) is making an impact in Colorado. More than eighteen Colorado CEEP partner campuses scheduled election engagement activities during new student orientation and Welcome Week, primarily focused on voter registration, and include voter education and get out the vote elements. CEEP Colorado State Director, Jan Brennan, reports, “We are seeing great commitment from the top, with college and university presidents, ranging from Red Rocks Community College President, Dr. Michelle Haney, to University of Colorado-Denver President, Dorothy Horrell, meeting with CEEP staff and providing leadership support for CEEP and election engagement efforts.”
CEEP is providing support and engagement opportunities for First-Year Experience programs on several campuses. These First-Year programs target diverse, at-risk students who are often the first in their families to attend college. The programs are ideal contact points for CEEP support as they not only ensure that students understand their local or absentee voting opportunities, but also provide on-going opportunities for students to engage with elections and the community. For example, University Colorado-Denver’s First-Year Experience will distribute CEEP materials to all students, provide academic credit for students to attend a three-part election education series being presented by the School of Public Administration and have added election engagement opportunities to fulfill a service requirement for participating students. Some of the first-year students met their serve requirement by hosting a campus education event Immigration and the 2018 Mid-terms.
College political science and public administration departments are also ramping up with CEEP support, particularly focused on voter and election education. CEEP is helping coordinate a VoteSmart 2018 election workshop series at the Denver Auraria campus, reaching students from University Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State University and Community College of Denver. The three-part series includes Nuts & Bolts of Voting (structures, rules and rights related to voting and election participation), You, the Voter (identifying the values you want to express in your voting decisions) and Separating Fact from Fiction (media literacy).
Brennan is also seeing the University of Colorado-Boulder (UCB) ramping up their election engagement efforts. Election engagement work is led jointly by UC Engage: Center for Community-Based Learning and Research and the Office for Outreach and Engagement. UCB participates in the All In Challenge, meaning that they commit to maintaining an Election Engagement advisory group, creating an annual election engagement plan and tracking activities. They also participate in the National Study of Civic Learning and Engagement to track their student registration and turnout levels. The data breaks down student election engagement by year and major, so that UCB can identify student groups that are slipping through the cracks.
CEEP was on campus earlier this fall for University of Colorado Boulder student government interviews for three paid Legislative Affairs interns that will drive their campus election engagement efforts. In addition to basic voter registration efforts and turnout events such as registration tables and debate watch parties, more innovative activities include an extensive social media campaign, student-created candidate and issue guides as part of assigned coursework and a Classroom Conversation guide to facilitate discussion. The Political Science and Social Work departments have traditionally been strongly involved, but UCB is targeting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) departments based on data that shows these majors have lower registration and turnout levels. Brennan was especially excited to hear that UCB election engagement efforts have led to the creation of an overarching Civic Action Plan.
With the mid-term election fast approaching on November 6th, Brennan and her CEEP campus contacts will finish strong and look forward to a seeing students voice their opinions at the polls.