A nonpartisan and nonprofit initiative is saluting Kalamazoo College today as one of 394 U.S. institutions doing the most in higher education to encourage student voting.
K is being recognized as a 2022 All-In Most-Engaged Campuses honoree, meaning that the College:
- Reported its 2020 student voting data to the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE), which is run through the Institute of Democracy and Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University.
- Shared that data with the All-In Campus Democracy Challenge, an effort that strives to improve and increase democratic-engagement activities on college campuses.
- Developed and submitted to the All-In challenge a 2022 voter-engagement action plan.
- Signed on to a national list of institutional presidents committing their colleges to efforts that increase student turnout at the polls.
K Votes, the Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Center for Civic Engagement’s (CCE) nonpartisan coalition to inform the College’s students, faculty and staff members about voting and civic engagement, is the primary driver of K’s efforts in increasing voter participation. In 2020, K eclipsed national averages for voter turnout as 83.7 percent of the student body cast ballots in the presidential election. That rate was the highest among all campuses in Michigan and put K in the top 4 percent of colleges and universities nationally that reported their data to the IDHE.
K Votes representatives work in partnership with their student peers, the local League of Women Voters and the national Rock the Vote organization—which is led by Executive Director Caroline DeWitt ’04, a K alumna—to register new voters, mail absentee ballots, provide rides to the polls, and distribute candidate information with maps to local polling places.
Those endeavors are the hallmarks of a robust get-out-the-vote effort, currently led by CCE Program Associate Riley Gabriel ’20 and K Votes Civic Engagement Scholar Thomas Lichtenberg ’23, along with students, faculty, emeriti faculty and staff.
“In addition to CCE staff, we could not have done any of this without the rest of the K staff and faculty who were eager to help with driving, helping register voters, and just getting the word out,” Lichtenberg said. “We appreciated the contributions of students Eleanor Carr, Lyrica Gee and Abby Stump, who worked closely with the CCE’s Students for Reproductive Freedom, and we collaborated with the NAACP and League of Women Voters of the Kalamazoo Area, registering voters at the Women’s March and assisting with their candidate forums, led by the LWVKA’s MerriKay Oleen-Burkey and Denise Hartsough.”
“Young people are shaping our future in myriad ways, and their informed engagement in elections is vital,” CCE Director Alison Geist said. “The CCE is grateful to our student leaders and all of the people in our community, both on and off campus, who energetically encouraged and enabled students to vote, many for the first time. Voting isn’t a panacea for social change, but it helps.”