Voter registration exceeds 96 percent among eligible first-year students

Maddie Burakoff, Assistant Campus Editor

Voter registration among eligible new students rose more than 57 percent after a push by NU Votes, with 96.4 percent of eligible first-years registering to vote by the end of move-in day, according to a Thursday news release.

Student representatives were integrated into the Sept. 11 move-in process at five booths in residence halls across campus, according to the release.

“This helps us send a message to incoming students right from day one that we value civic responsibility at Northwestern,” said Rob Donahue, associate director for the Center for Civic Engagement, in the release.

The NU Votes initiative was launched by the Center for Civic Engagement in 2011 to raise awareness and participation among student voters.

Based on a 1998 amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1965, universities are required to “make a good faith effort to distribute voter registration forms” as a condition of their federal funding, the release said. The federal requirement sets a “fairly low” bar, Donahue said, but NU Votes decided to provide extra materials so students could easily register — whether in-state or out-of-state.

NU Votes has been working to share its model with other institutions including Stanford University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, according to the release.

Northwestern is also participating in the Big Ten Voting Challenge, for which all Big Ten university presidents have pledged $10,000 to “promote student civic engagement.”

“One of the most important values we teach at our universities is the importance of civic engagement,” said a Big Ten letter signed by University President Morton Schapiro. “Voting in elections gives our students a voice in the democratic process and in the decisions that affect local, state and national issues.”

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