Student government leaders influence the direction of their universities. They can also inspire voters aged 18-25 to get involved in local, state, and national politics, too.
Fourteen institutions make up the country’s “Big 10”.
The SGAs (student government associations) of these universities have banded together to form the Association of Big Ten Students (ABTS). ABTS represents over 500,000 undergraduate students.
ABTS has a mission when it comes to SGA elections: Get out the vote!
Representatives from each ABTS member have joined forces to promote voting on campus and in state and national races. A national organization, the American Student Government Association (ASGA) has similar goals.
According to the University of Michigan’s student government association, this arrangement: “aims to increase the number of eligible student voters across the country and encourage participation at the polls for all elections.”
SGA Elections: Getting Out the Vote on Campus
Student government elections are often the first exposure to a formalized democratic process. Yet, many students remain on the sidelines, apathetic.
Samantha Geisinger, a senior studying at The Pennsylvania State University wrote about a common experience in Forbes:
In fact, just yesterday, I was speaking with one of my best friends as he complained about our federal government. I only asked him one question, “Did you vote in last year’s election?”, and when his answer was, “No...” I told him that I couldn’t stand to listen to him complain, especially when many of his friends participated in voter registration efforts on our campus.
Groups like ABTS aim to get more students involved in student government. This includes encouraging students to run for office. It also means facilitating campus activities that favor voting participation.
Three campus-wide voting objectives should be:
- Raising the profile of student government elections
- Encouraging student participation at all levels
- Normalizing the voting process inside and outside the university
Students with political ambitions must dedicate a lot of time running a campaign, but it can be a rewarding undertaking.
As Gary Teal, former Vice Chair of the D.C. GOP advises on Quora:
“On one hand, being Student Body President got me into the White House and many other amazing experiences that helped shape my life. But on the other hand, running for office is not for the faint of heart. [...] [M]y advice is that you be yourself, build name ID by having lots of posters or stickers or whatever is allowed, and roll with the punches.”
If you are running for student government, here are eBallot’s best practices for student government elections. Our secure online voting tool is the choice of hundreds of colleges and universities. It is easy to use and results are visible immediately.
Motivating College Voters in State and National Campaigns
Voters aged 18-25 have historically come out to vote in lower percentages than older voters, according to chart data provided by Michael P. McDonald, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Florida.
The US Census Bureau reports that these voters have consistently voted at lower rates than all other age groups in every presidential election since 1962.
Why the apathy? Critics have differing opinions. A wide number of organizations are working to engage younger voters.
ABTS is one success story. ABTS has successfully registered 50,000 students to vote in state and national elections across the ten member states it represents, according to Geisinger.
The Role of Leaders in SG Associations
Student government leaders can take these approaches to get more peers involved locally and nationally:
- Focus on issues that impact student voters directly. Student leaders can highlight issues such as student loan debt to raise awareness about politics on campus and off-campus.
- Email the entire student body to get involved in all elections. Emailing students to remind them to participate in university elections is just the beginning. Student government can also use their platform to remind students to participate in local, state, and national elections. Choose an online voting platform like eBallot that includes emailing capabilities and easy-to-use templates.
- Partner with outside nonpartisan nonprofits. Student government leaders can proactively partner with outside organizations such as Democracy Works or Campus Vote, to engage students.
Student government representatives play an important role during their time at university. The policies made during their time can shape the direction of your institution for years to come. One worthwhile legacy is motivating fellow students to vote. Lead by example.
eBallot can help colleges and universities of any size host an election. Contact us to discuss your needs and receive an educational discount.