On the heels of last week’s statewide elections, UMW received the 2019 ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge Platinum Seal for schools with a student voter participation rate above 50 percent. Center for Community Engagement Associate Director Sarah Dewees accepted the award today with students at a ceremony held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
“I’m proud of our students but not surprised,” said President Troy Paino. “This national recognition reflects just one aspect of the longstanding commitment of Mary Washington’s faculty, staff and students to civic engagement.”
Since its 2016 launch, the challenge, a national initiative, has recognized and supported institutions of higher education in their efforts to achieve full student voter participation, promote an informed electorate and make civic engagement a core value on their campuses. To date, over 6.2 million students and more than 560 colleges and universities have taken the challenge.
Dewees pointed to University of Mary Washington student efforts throughout the past year to encourage voting and civic responsibility, including a National Voter Registration Day celebration this fall, UMW-hosted debates with state legislature candidates, and rides to the polls provided by classmates.
The 2016 presidential election saw 67 percent of UMW students showing up at the polls, according to a report released by the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE). That tops the national student voting rate of 61.4 percent reported by the U.S. Census.
And while overall voter turnout is typically lower in midterm elections, Mary Washington students turned out in full force in 2018, as well. Fifty-three percent cast ballots last year, according to NSLVE, besting the average participation rate of 39.1 percent for all institutions surveyed.
“We’re excited to honor the University of Mary Washington with the platinum seal in recognition of their intentional efforts to increase democratic engagement and full voter participation,” said Jennifer Domagal-Goldman, ALL IN’s executive director.
To top off those efforts, UMW students teamed up with alumni, faculty and administration to design and propose a 2020 Day on Democracy to allow classes to be cancelled on Election Day and free students’ time to get to the ballot box. It was passed by the University Faculty Council in March.
“Students will have more time to fully participate on Election Day next year,” Dewees said. “The Day on Democracy shows UMW is really committed to civic engagement and is a pioneer in empowering students to exercise their most fundamental civic responsibility.”