Photo by Samantha Hearn / MTSU Sidelines Archive
Incoming students are being offered voter registration opportunities at summer CUSTOMS sessions after coordination between MTSU and the Rutherford County Election Commission.
MTSU CUSTOMS assists incoming freshmen in making the transition to the university. This summer will be the first time where MTSU will offer voter registration for students attending CUSTOMS.
MTSU Board of Trustees Chair Stephen Smith and Rutherford County’s Administrator of Elections Alan Farley collaborated on the project to increase student voter participation.
“This is something that (Smith) wanted to get more student involvement (with) as far as civic engagement,” Farley said.
Farley is an alumnus of MTSU, where he also worked as the social athletics director for 10 years. He agreed with Smith’s idea to increase civic engagement among students and is working with Smith to add voter registration booths at summer CUSTOMS events.
Mary Evans is an MTSU professor who coordinates the American Democracy Project, a program that promotes student civic engagement and has grown into a “multi-campus initiative” with over 250 college campuses involved. Farley explained that Evans’ research also prompted him to work to increase student participation in politics.
“(Evans) provided some documentation where, in the November 2016 election, there was very little (student voter) participation,” Farley said. “Only 44.5 percent of our students voted in the 2016 presidential election, but the national average of college campuses was 50 percent.”
Farley said that because MTSU students come from all over the state of Tennessee, they may not be voting due to being unaware of the “absentee process” for voting.
“This way, it gets (students) a way where they can go ahead and learn how to vote absentee, but also if they’re local, they can learn how to (vote locally),” Farley said. “They can register here, but they can also register for their home address.”
Farley explained that students will also be informed when it is time to request an absentee ballot in fall. Additionally, he said that students will be informed that they can vote both locally in Rutherford County or in their home counties, depending on which local election they would like to participate in.
Farley expressed hope that this program will help to increase student voter turnout in upcoming elections.
“I think it’s going to be a model that could be used at all the colleges and universities across the state,” Farley said.
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