ANOTHER OPINION: Youth voting is key to greater civic engagement | Opinion

One bright spot following this month’s election was the recognition given to Indiana State University for its student voting levels.

If Vigo County and Terre Haute hope to improve the community’s low voter turnout, young people must be encouraged to participate in the electoral process.

The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge recognized ISU as one of the organization’s most committed campuses to student voting. The national, nonpartisan initiative — launched in 2016 as part of the American Democracy Project — recognizes universities and colleges for their intentional efforts to increase student voter turnout.

ISU joined five other Indiana campuses on the list.

UIS EFFORTS included forming a campus-wide group to centralize student voter registration, voter education, and voter turnout. The UIS also monitors its progress through its membership in the National Learning, Voting and Engagement Study.

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

“Young people have a lot at stake in every local, state and national election,” said Nancy Rogers, ISU Vice President for Student Engagement. “At ISU, we work every day to help students recognize and use their own agency to impact the future of our democracy.”

One of the biggest steps towards greater student participation at ISU also involves the Vigo County community. The ISU campus became the site of a community polling station, as one of the county’s voting centers, in 2018. Turnout at the voting center, located inside the Hulman Memorial Student Union Building, were strong and comparable to many other voting centers across the county.

It was a significant addition. A predominance of voting sites is more familiar to older generations and longtime residents — American Legion and VFW stations, fire stations, churches and union halls. The establishment of a voting center on campus, which is the third largest employer in Terre Haute, gives students a place that is not so foreign to them.

Greater inclusion of university students is also diversifying the local electorate, a much-needed impact as well.

The ISU polling place was a hard-won winner, surviving two initial rejections by the Vigo County Electoral Board, before finally being added. The maintenance by the electoral committee of the ISU polling center is commendable and should continue.

The county of Vigo needs new voters. Its record of low turnout continued with the 2022 general election. Only 25,399 (or 34%) of Vigo County’s 75,021 registered voters cast ballots, only the second time in at least 52 years since the county’s turnout fell below 40% in a midterm election.

Vigo County’s turnout also ranked second among Indiana counties this year, according to unofficial preliminary results posted on the Indiana Secretary of State’s Electoral Division website. . Only Tippecanoe County, at 32%, was lower. Marion County also recorded a 34% stake.

COUNTY AND STATE need to attract more young people to the polls. Indiana ranked sixth in voter registration for 18- to 24-year-olds in the 2022 election cycle, according to the University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). Tufts.

Indiana and Vigo County can do better. Greater outreach, like the efforts of the ISU and the campus voting center, can bring young voters to the polls. The result will be elected officials who are more responsive to the needs of all generations of residents, not just those from their own demographic background.

This is real democracy.

The Tribune-Etoile, Terre Haute