After the 2020 federal election, Kalamazoo College earned platinum status in the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge with 83.7% of eligible students casting their ballots, nearly 20% higher than the national average. Now, thanks to the organizing efforts of the Center for Civic Engagement team (CCE), K Votes Civic Engagement Scholars and volunteers, and allied faculty, K also has been certified as a Voter Friendly Campus with the national Campus Vote Project for the first time. This places Kalamazoo College among 258 other campuses in 38 states.
Campus Vote Project is a part of the Fair Elections Center, a national nonpartisan voting-rights and election-reform organization. Campus Vote Project works with universities, community colleges, faculty, students and election officials to reduce the barriers of student voting. It works across 41 states with more than 3.4 million students. The Voter Friendly Campus designation, a collaboration between Campus Vote Project and NASPA, was created “to help institutions develop democratic engagement action plans that coordinate administrators, faculty and student organizations in civic and electoral engagement.”
To be designated a Voter Friendly Campus, the college must submit a plan outlining what actions they plan to take during the election cycle to increase voter engagement. They then submit a report after the election that assesses how successful they were in their efforts and how they can improve in the next election cycle. This report is reviewed and scored by members of Campus Vote Project to determine whether the efforts warrant the designation.
“I see this as an important accomplishment,” Civic Engagement Scholar Thomas Lichtenberg said. “For years, K has been building a coalition of staff, faculty and students to ensure that every eligible student has the resources and opportunity to vote. I am overjoyed by the results of our efforts, and this is a perfect opportunity for us to continue to grow and improve.”
Lichtenberg added that this is just one of the initiatives that K Votes has planned for spring term.
“It’s important to remember that there’s always an election happening somewhere,” he said. “Kalamazoo has a special election on May 2. It might seem minor compared to the flashier elections, but we want to remain consistently engaged and make sure that the other elections do not go ignored.”
This commitment to election engagement will be layered with several on-campus activities and events in which students can participate to see firsthand what it means to be politically active between elections.
Over more than 15 years, dozens of faculty and staff have contributed volunteer time and resources to support student-voter engagement. In recent years, CCE post-baccalaureate fellows and paid student Civic Engagement Scholars have built community connections and campus structures to connect students to nonpartisan voter education and prepare them for lifelong civic engagement. These efforts have helped hundreds of students through quarterly voter education events, democratic advocacy and activism, and the countless individual efforts by students to get their votes cast. Congratulations, K voters!
If you want to help with Get Out the Vote efforts on campus, please contact Thomas.Lichtenberg19@kzoo.edu or Riley.Gabriel@kzoo.edu.