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Winning the vote

Mount Saint Mary’s receives Bronze Seal for Excellence in student voter engagement.

December 7, 2017

The Mount has worked hard to make democratic engagement and voting a priority for our students, and that dedication has not gone unnoticed.

Recently, the Mount received the bronze seal for Excellence in Student Voter Engagement by the All In Campus Democracy Challenge. This award is given to schools who have achieved a student voter rate between 50 percent and 59 percent.

“We are excited to receive this recognition for our voter engagement efforts, but it is truly our students who deserve to be honored,” said Rosalyn Kempf, PhD, assistant vice president for student affairs and women’s leadership. “We hope that students will continue to make their voices heard and use the knowledge and skills they gain at MSMU to make a difference.”

The organization encourages student engagement in voting by recognizing colleges and universities throughout the country for increasing student voting rates. More than 300 institutions and four million students currently participate in the program, which started in the summer of 2016.

According to recent data from the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, student voting rates are increasing nationwide. In 2012, 45.1 percent of eligible students voted in the presidential election. In the 2016 election, that number increased to 48.3 percent of eligible students. At 59.5 percent for the 2016 presidential election, the Mount’s voting rate surpasses the national average. That rate is also four points higher than in 2012.

The MSMU Votes Initiative

Kempf credits the MSMU Votes initiative for helping raise student voting rates. “Ultimately, MSMU Votes provided a unifying framework that helped to bring together the entire Mount community around the importance of active citizenship,” said Kempf.

MSMU Votes was launched in the fall of 2016 as a program to help engage students in the voting process. The program is an initiative of the Division of Student Affairs and coordinated by Women’s Leadership and Student Involvement, although the efforts of MSMU Votes are campus-wide and involves the participation of students, staff and faculty.

MSMU Votes provides information and events related to voting and democratic engagement. The program regularly coordinates participation in annual national events, such as National Voter Registration Day and Constitution Day. These events include creative ways to get students civically engaged, such as a mock presidential debate sponsored by the history and political science department. In April, the Mount hosted IGNITE National’s first Southern California Young Women’s Political Summit. This day-long event brought local high school and university students to the Doheny Campus, where they learned about ways to become engaged in their communities. Examples of other events coordinated by MSMU Votes include debate-watching parties, voting shuttles, election coverage and post-election dialogues.

Mount Saint Mary’s is a Voter Friendly Campus

Earlier this year, the Mount was also recognized as a Voter Friendly Campus as part of the Campus Vote Project. Mount Saint Mary’s is one of only four institutions in California with the Voter Friendly distinction.

MSMU is also part of the NASPA Lead Initiative on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement. This network of colleges and universities are committed to helping students become engaged in the democratic process.

“Civic learning and democratic engagement are at the heart of MSMU’s mission. We want our students to fully embrace their roles as citizen leaders and to know that their voices and perspectives on the issues of our time will have profound effects on the future,” said Kempf.

Even though there won’t be another presidential election until 2020, local elections are just as important. The MSMU Votes initiative will continue to work with students and the entire community to promote the importance of being informed and exercising the right to vote. “We will continue the MSMU Votes initiative so that all in our community engage in the democratic process at every opportunity possible,” said Kempf.