Faculty Resource: Incorporating Election Engagement into Your Courses
Faculty form trusted relationships with their students, allowing you to play a key role in student election engagement. Use these resources and approaches from Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP) to help your students participate as informed voters. See additional resources for nonpartisan civic conversations at the end of this document. Download a PDF of this resource here.
Include Key Election Dates and Resources in Your Course Syllabus and Calendar
Just as your syllabus informs students on support services from the writing center to the disability office, it is a helpful place to include quick election information links. Your syllabus reaches students whether they are on campus or online, and they read it thoroughly.
The easiest way is to link to CEEP’s Voter Tools web page. Students can register, check or update their registration, request a mail or absentee ballot, sign up for election reminders and more, for all 50 states. You could also direct students to voter registration tools on your campus election web page (here’s an example from OSU Votes) or your state’s official voting website. As the election approaches, students can use these links to find key dates, polling locations and identification requirements for voting.
Involve Students in Campus Election Engagement Efforts and Events
If your campus has a nonpartisan engagement coalition or club, let students know how to connect with the group. Promote election events taking place on campus, from candidate forums to registration drives. Ask the designated CEEP staffer in your state, or check with your campus student affairs department or civic engagement center to get details.
Help Students Make Informed Choices by Distributing Nonpartisan Candidate or Issue Information
Students often say they don’t vote because they are not confident about making the right choices. Distribute CEEP’s nonpartisan candidate and issue guides to provide accurate information and get students past the obstacle of not knowing enough about the candidates. The League of Women Voters’ Vote411.org gives information on initiatives and down-ballot races.
CEEP’s guides support academic learning objectives when integrated into course assignments and are used to build media literacy skills with resources like Detecting Disinformation.
Integrate Election Issues Into Your Courses Through Conversations, Assignments and Volunteerism
- Discuss issues around voting vs. staying home. Use the Living Room Conversations guide on To Vote or Not to Vote. (Our 90-second Close Elections video may also help.)
- Discuss elections, candidates or ballot issues. These can be quick, informal discussions, facilitated conversations or course assignments in which students research and present pros and cons. You can use election-related topics to build research, analysis, writing, presentation and media literacy skills, or link specific election issues to course content. See additional resources for nonpartisan conversations at the end of this document.
- Assign related research and writing projects. Assign or promote topics on elections and voting, candidates or ballot issues as part of more general reading, research and writing projects. These could range from short essays on “How I feel about voting,” or students exploring their own political evolution, to rigorous research and analysis of political trends or issues related to your course.
- Have students fact-check. Media literacy skills are critical for students, so incorporate an assignment in which they fact-check positions from candidates and advocacy groups. Use respected sites like FactCheck.org, FlackCheck.org and Politifact.com.
- Have students create their own nonpartisan candidate or issue guides. This is a great way for students to gain skills and knowledge, working individually or in groups. Your campus nonpartisan election coalition can help distribute these guides campus-wide, promoting informed voting. To get started, see Creating Your Own Nonpartisan Candidate Guides and use CEEP’s candidate and issue guides as examples.
- Have students develop nonpartisan election engagement campaigns or events. Classes have developed and hosted events from voting workshops and candidate debates to art installations, debate watch parties and ballot issue education forums. Events are a chance for students to present their nonpartisan research or distribute materials they’ve created. For debates, students can prepare questions and serve as moderators. They can also recruit community experts to participate, as long as the event stays nonpartisan.
- Students can help organize targeted election engagement projects. Examples range from students at The Ohio State University who conducted a voter registration campaign for campus staff, like janitors, food service workers and groundskeepers, to students who created election web pages for the campus, ride-share campaigns to get students to the polls and student-run social media campaigns to encourage turnout.
- Encourage students to volunteer in campaigns of their choosing and report back to the class. Use CEEP’s Election Volunteering resources for guidance. It can be particularly instructive to have students volunteer for candidates on opposite sides of a race and then report back to the class. They can also volunteer with your school’s engagement coalition to register, educate and mobilize fellow students as voters—or create their own initiative as individuals or a class. COVID-19 is discouraging older Election Day poll workers from showing up, so students who sign up with their County Board of Elections to serve as poll workers perform an important public service and get paid a bit.
- Give academic credit for student election engagement service. You might require students to volunteer a certain number of hours in election engagement or give extra credit to students who volunteer for election-related organizations or campaigns. These activities can be nonpartisan, or students may work on a candidate or issue campaign that draws their interest. Selecting the election engagement they want to perform should be the students’ choice, not yours.
- Integrate into existing service-learning courses. Election engagement is particularly appropriate for semester-long service-learning projects. Students can work regularly with election-related nonprofits or government entities, including local election boards, and then reflect on their experience for course credit.