The University of Michigan is part of a new, nonpartisan initiative to increase voter engagement on college and university campuses across the state.

Institutions that participate in the Michigan Collegiate Voting Challenge will compete for awards based on voter turnout and registration rates for the November 2020 election, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced Nov. 14.

 “Young people are our future, and it’s critical that members of the next generation make their voices heard in our democracy,” Benson said. She said schools that join are affirming their “commitment to ensuring students are both informed and engaged participants in the 2020 election and beyond.”

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The Michigan Collegiate Voting Challenge is a collaboration between Benson’s office and the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, a nonpartisan initiative of the nonprofit Civic Nation.

U-M’s Ann Arbor campus and UM-Dearborn are already participating in the ALL IN Challenge and are automatically included in the Michigan Challenge.

There will be separate competitions for two-year and four-year institutions. Each will have three award categories: highest voter turnout, most improved voter turnout and highest rate of voter registration.

Benson’s office, in partnership with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, has invited colleges and universities throughout Michigan to join the competition.

Participating schools will convene a campuswide committee to create and implement a nonpartisan democratic-engagement action plan. They will also take part in the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement at the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tufts University. Data from the study will be used to determine the award winners.

The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge will issue recognition seals and national awards. At the state level, Benson and Whitmer will issue seals of recognition in the three competition categories.

U-M had success with another recent voter engagement initiative, the Big Ten Voting Challenge. The challenge was launched in 2017 and involved students at 14 institutions in the Big Ten Conference. At U-M, student voter turnout roughly tripled in the 2018 midterm elections compared to 2014, going from 14 percent to 41 percent. That challenge will be continued for the 2020 election.

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