MSUVote Helps Students Understand Elections and their Rights

October 23, 2020

It’s fair to say that 2020 has been a unique year. In the midst of a global pandemic, the U.S. is gearing up for the general election. For many Michigan State University students, this may be the first time they are casting a ballot. MSUVote is available to help Spartans understand their rights and how to properly vote.

MSU Election Resources

MSUVote is a non-partisan campus committee with a mission to increase the number of registered student voters, as well as to educate about candidates and issues, and to boost the number of students who vote. 

Established more than 20 years ago, MSUVote’s core values focus on registration, education and participation. Because of this, MSUVote is focused on making the act of voting as simple and transparent as possible on the local, state and national level. Not only is the information useful for first time voters and MSU students, but it is also a resource for staff, faculty and members of the East Lansing community. 

Collaborating with more than 11 partners, MSUVote works with a wide variety of groups to have a large reach on campus. Some of the organizations MSUVote associates with include:

  • Big Ten Voting Challenge
  • City of East Lansing
  • City of Lansing
  • Design for America – Michigan State University Chapter
  • League of Women Voters
  • Meridian Township
  • Michigan Secretary of State

MSU athletics is another MSUVote partner. To help increase excitement with students, the two organizations recently co-hosted a virtual voter registration rally. During the livestream, special guests spoke, including Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, East Lansing City Clerk Jennifer Shuster, MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., MSU Men's Basketball Coach Tom Izzo and MSU Football Coach Mel Tucker.

Coach Izzo kicked off the event by talking about the importance of voting. “By voting, you are putting yourself in the position to be a difference maker,” Izzo said. “One vote can mean a lot, and one vote can inspire somebody else.”

MSUVote also receives funding and grants to help increase engagement. A grant from Ask Every Student – an innovation partner with the University – helps MSUVote hire MSU students to communicate with peers about voter information directly through a Q&A direct chat on MSUVote’s website. The chat function helps make the idea of casting a ballot less intimating for students because of the casual nature of the messaging format.

Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP) recently awarded a grant to MSUVote that is providing extra support for its student interns who are working to provide outreach and resources to MSU Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) and Fraternity and Sorority Life.  

MSU was also selected by the Campus Vote Project to host 2 student Democracy Fellows. These fellows are presenting on campus in classrooms, at conferences and to student organizations. “The Students who are part of MSUvote play an important role in increasing MSU’s overall student voting rates,” said Renee Brown, co-chair for MSUVote and director of the Center for Community Engaged Learning. “Students enjoy talking to other students and contributing to MSUvote overall. We simply could not make such an impressive impact without the efforts of our students.”

Ways to Vote Right Now

Election day is Nov. 3. As is traditional in voting, MSU students who are registered to vote in East Lansing can head to the polls that day. However, there are viable alternatives to consider.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, casting an absentee ballot is one way for voters to participate while also physically distancing from others. Students away at college have two legal residences, meaning they may select to vote either from their permanent residence or from East Lansing, and may request a vote-by-mail ballot if desired.

MSUVote provides a state guide for all 50 states to help citizens request a ballot, register to vote and be aware of important deadlines. For Michigan residents, the deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 30. To make a request, visit Michigan.gov/vote. On the website, users can order and track their ballots to confirm it is received.

East Lansing City Clerk’s Office is responsible for the administration of elections in East Lansing. Students may vote at the clerk’s office now. If students do not wish to vote the same day as visiting the Clerk’s Office, CATA Station Bus #1 at Shaw Hall has secured metal boxes to drop ballots that are picked up daily.

Why You Should Vote

Voting allows citizens to voice their thoughts and feelings about what is going on in the world. Voting can create change with a positive impact. There is power in numbers and this allows better means of representation. 

“MSU has partners in the community to help students get their voices heard,” said Suchitra Webster, co-chair for MSUVote and MSU Community Liaison. “I am struck by how committed our municipal partners are to see how our students grow and become avid voters. This is what our democracy is about.” 

On the surface, the act of voting may seem overwhelming. It’s important to plan to vote. Research the candidates, reflect where your positions align and find a method of voting that best fits you. 

“This not difficult, but it takes a moment to have an intention to vote and make a plan,” Webster said. “Once you’re committed, there are many ways to make it all a simple process.”

She suggests if filling out an absentee ballot, now is the time. Election day is a lot closer than it feels, and it is important to have everything mailed in time.

This has been a year like no other. The upcoming 2020 general election can create pivotal change for the years ahead. Democracy is the ultimate team sport, but it only works if we all partake in the act, Webster added.

For more information, visit MSUVote at msuvote.msu.edu.

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