Southern Utah University wins 1st place in voter engagement competition

Stock image of student voter, courtesy of Southern Utah University, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — For the first time in the school’s history, Southern Utah University won the Campus Cup, a statewide voter challenge sponsored by the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office.

SUU’s Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service led the fight for the cup. Student leaders organized voter registration drives, “Expedition Vote” and different events to encourage civic engagement. The competition ended with SUU in first place, followed by Westminster College then Utah State University. SUU’s team was awarded the Campus Cup trophy, bragging rights and a meeting with Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox.

Schools participated in three parts: hashtags, Expedition Vote and voter registration.

SUU’s hashtag was #suuvotes, which was tracked on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Each use of the hashtag resulted in one point for the university.

Expedition Vote was a 24-hour challenge requiring schools to form teams and compete against one another in a massive scavenger hunt. Tasks were focused around voter registration, civic engagement and service. Teams had a day to do everything from donating clothes to a shelter to filming a video while making fry sauce.

“The 24-hour challenge was a chance for students to get involved in an unconventional way,” Victoria Stephens, an executive council member in the Leavitt Center, said in a press release issued by SUU. “Students ran around town checking off tasks, not realizing they also registered people to vote and completed service projects.”

People wait in line to vote at Cedar City offices, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 6, 2018 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The final and most influential piece was voter registration. Most students were registered in September on National Voter Registration Day. Students could register in any of the 50 states, request an absentee ballot, or update voter records.

“The Leavitt Center helped civically engage students from around the country,” Cami Mathews, student director of the Leavitt Center, said in the press release. “The competition was a way for students to help SUU gain state recognition while learning about politics and public service.”

Additionally and on a related note, Southern Utah University was recently named to Washington Monthly’s 2018 America’s Best Colleges for Student Voting.

The ranking comes as part of the College Guide and Rankings, which ranks colleges and universities on their contributions to social mobility, research and public service. This is a first-of-its-kind list of schools doing the most to turn their students into citizens.

On many campuses, less than half of eligible student voters exercise their democratic right to cast a ballot in presidential elections. To do its part in improving civic engagement, SUU participates in the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, which offers colleges and universities an opportunity to learn their student registration and voting rates.

SUU’s voting rate in the 2016 election was 49.7 percent, a 1.1 percent increase from 2012. Only 33 percent of registered voters between ages 18 and 21 voted. Almost half of registered voters between ages 22 and 29 exercised their right to vote. More women than men voted, and public administration and social service professions had the most people show up at the polls.

SUU’s Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service works to increase civic engagement. From voter registration drives to weekly discussions, the center aims to increase leadership, service, research and citizenship on campus and in the community.

“Public service is a remarkable way to devote oneself, whether it’s in politics or in science or art or business or engineering, there’s politics and policy involved in all of it,” former Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt said in the press release. “If students can leave with a sense of how to navigate that, they’ll be more successful in whatever field they choose.”

The university also participates in the “ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge,” a national, nonpartisan awards program and initiative recognizing colleges and universities for improving civic learning, political engagement and student voting rates on their campuses.

Resources

  • Campus Cup information on Utah Lieutenant Governor’s website.
  • SUU Leavitt Center website.
  • ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge website.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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