CMU named "Voter Friendly" campus by NASPA


Lapeer freshman Caelin O'Bryan fills out voter registration information Sept. 10 at the Michigan Secretary of State mobile office on Central Michigan University's campus.

Central Michigan University has been named as one of 123 “Voter Friendly” college campuses from 31 states through a program sponsored by National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

The “Voter Friendly” designation means that CMU was evaluated on a three-step process: a written campus plan on ways in which they would engage student voters, the facilitation of voter engagement efforts on campus and a final analysis on these efforts. 

“The program requires campuses to engage their student body and promote voter registration and voting as part of their institutional mission,” the NASPA report reads. “The goal of the Voter Friendly Campus designation program is to bolster efforts that help students overcome barriers to participating in the political process and develop a culture of democratic engagement on campus.”

The “Voter Friendly” designation comes after collaborative efforts from the CMU Student Government Association, the Campus Vote Project Coalition, the Register Educate Vote (REVCMU) registered student organization and Leadership Safari, among other student and non-campus affiliated organizations.

Other Michigan universities named in the list include University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Grand Valley State University and Ferris State University. 

According to the “Central Michigan University Campus Final Report” by Central Votes, efforts included “five mobile Secretary of State voter registration drives on campus; multiple tabling with information; education about deadlines, absentee balloting, voting rights, poll stations locations, and how to access information regarding candidates and issues.”

Last fall, SGA and the Coalition held a third annual forum for local candidates, brought in City Commission to an SGA meeting, tabled, spoke with administration about creating a civic engagement position and ran a voting social media campaign.

Additionally, SGA and Academic Senate passed “A Resolution to Support a Statement Encouraging Excused Absences for Students who are Voting and the Suspension of Exams, Presentations and Major In-Class Projects on Election Day."

The legislation encouraged professors to not schedule exams and allow excused absences on election days to allow for students to travel home in order to vote.

“I would say I’m ecstatic (about the “Voter Friendly” designation),” said SGA president and Coalition member Jake Hendricks. “Ever since I joined SGA on the Governmental Affairs Committee, pushing for better voter registration numbers and education has been central for me. I’m glad to see that so many campus leaders and partners have combined their efforts to make it happen.”

In Central Votes' report, National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement data from 2014-2016 showed that there was a 6.1 percent increase in voter registration and a 25.4 percent increase in voter rates. In 2016, the voter registration rate was at 63.9 percent and the voting rate was at 41.4 percent at CMU.

NSLVE data is not available for 2018 yet, but the report outlined three goals which involved the creation of the Coalition, increasing CMU registration and voting rates by 10 percent and registering 85 percent of freshmen during the 2018 summer. After the next NSLVE data release, the Coalition and Central Votes will be able to determine the success of their goals.

The “Voter Friendly” designation is valid until 2020, and Hendricks hopes that CMU will continue to make the list in the future.

“I hope we continue setting goals for ourselves to achieve higher levels of voter turnout,” he said. “We’ve come very far, but we have a lot of work to do.”