One bright spot in the wake of this month’s election was recognition given to Indiana State University for its students’ voting levels.

The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge recognized ISU as being among the organization’s most engaged campuses for college student voting. The nonpartisan, nationwide initiative — launched in 2016 as part of the American Democracy Project — recognizes universities and colleges for intentional efforts to increase student voter participation.

ISU joined five other Indiana campuses on the list: Indiana University Bloomington, Indiana University South Bend, Indiana University Southeast, IUPUI and Purdue University.

The efforts at ISU included the formation of a campus-wide group to centralize student voter registration, voter education and voter turnout. ISU also monitors its progress through membership in the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement.

As a result, the candidates they help elect will influence the policies that will affect the students’ futures.

“Young people have a great deal at stake in every local, state and national election,” said Nancy Rogers, ISU vice president for student engagement. “At ISU, we are working every day to help students recognize and use their own agency in impacting the future of our democracy.”

One of the biggest steps toward greater student participation at ISU involves the Vigo County community, as well. The ISU campus became the site of a community polling site, as one of the county’s vote centers, in 2018.

It was an important addition. A predominance of voting sites are most familiar to older generations and longtime residents — American Legion and VFW posts, firehouses, churches and union halls. The placement of a vote center on campus gives students a place that is not so foreign to them.

Greater inclusion of college students also diversifies the local electorate, a much needed impact, as well.

The ISU voting location was hard-fought to gain, surviving two initial rejections by the Vigo County Election Board, before eventually being added. The Election Board’s maintenance of the ISU vote center is laudable, and should continue.

The state needs to attract more young people to the polls. Indiana ranked sixth-worst in voter registration of 18- to 24-year-olds in the 2022 election cycle, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University.

Indiana can do better. More outreach, such as the efforts at ISU and the campus vote center, can bring younger voters to the polls. The result will be elected officials that are more attuned to the needs of all generations of residents, not just those from their own demographic backgrounds. That is true democracy.

Tribune-Star, Terre Haute

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