Iowa State receives national recognition for efforts to encourage voting

AMES, Iowa – Iowa State University is one of more than 230 campuses – and the only one in Iowa – to be designated as a “Voter Friendly Campus,” recognizing the work of ISU students and the Catt Center for Women and Politics to support voter registration efforts and encourage students to vote.

Student standing by voter information box

Sehba Faheem, senior in biological and systems engineering, worked on a student committee to create voter registration stations across campus. Photo by Christopher Gannon

Last fall, several student organizations and committees coordinated student voter engagement activities ranging from providing information for community advisors in the residence halls to creating voter information stations to hosting virtual debate watch parties. Iowa State also participated in a variety of national and regional student voter engagement programs, including the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, the Big XII Votes Challenge and the Iowa Votes Challenge.

“We know that voting is a habit and if you start voting at a young age, you are more likely to vote and be civically engaged throughout your life,” said Catt Center Director Karen Kedrowski. “Building a culture on campus that voting is important is healthy for our democracy.”

Kedrowski says earning this designation would not be possible without the work of many students who organized voter engagement efforts on campus, and the support of ISU President Wendy Wintersteen, the League of Women Voters and the Story County Auditor.

The “Voter Friendly Campus” initiative is led by the national nonpartisan organizations Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. The mission of the Voter Friendly Campus designation is to bolster efforts that help students overcome barriers to participating in the political process.

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, around 55% of voting-eligible 18-to-29-year-olds cast a ballot in the 2020 presidential election. Student voter data will be available later this year from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE).

In the 2018 midterm elections, ISU student voter turnout was 43.4%, according to the NSLVE. That was higher than the national average of 38.5% and a significant jump from the university’s 2014 voting rate of 24.4%. In 2016, ISU student voter turnout was 62%, compared to the U.S. average of 52.9%.