Student-led voter registration and education efforts are ramping up on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus.
The nonpartisan Jackets Vote program includes online resources, in-person events, speakers, candidate information and virtual debate watch parties.
"Our goal was mainly to educate students and to encourage them to become civically active," said junior Augusto Vladusic, one of two student interns leading the effort.
In the 2018 election, less than half of eligible UWS students — 47.9% — voted.
“If they don’t want to vote, we want to respect that, but if they don’t vote because they don’t understand the system, we want to help them and educate them so they can vote from now on,” Vladusic said.
Tuesday, Sept. 29, he and freshman Zoe Teitz took shifts at a table outside the Marcovich Wellness Center to connect with peers. They offered free masks, pens, information and links to online voter registration.
Voters from each demographic cast ballots to see their interests represented. Vladusic said on average only 50% of voters ages 18-29 go to the polls.
“If seniors are voting, they’re getting more for Social Security or something they’re interested in,” Teitz said. “If nobody votes in our generation, they don’t get what they need.”
The Jacket Vote program is led by Vladusic and senior Amber Heidenreich, interns with the Link Center on campus, and funded with a Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovations grant. They teamed up with student fellows working with the national nonpartisan Campus Election Engagement Project to pool their efforts.
“In my opinion, having students reach out to their peers is an approachable, effective and inspiring approach to educate our next generation on the importance of voting,” said Link Center Director Jenice Meyer. “Being an involved citizen is essential to our democracy and these students are carrying that forward to their peers.”
With fewer students on campus this fall due to the pandemic, having a robust website that included a way to link out-of-state students with their home state ballots was vital. Vladusic said he and Heidenreich have been working on the Jackets Vote website since early July.
In-person events kicked off Sept. 22, when more than 100 students visited the Jackets Vote table outside the Yellowjacket Union. The table was outside the Marcovich Wellness Center Tuesday to catch student athletes.
"We don’t want to leave any students behind," Vladusic said.
Additional table events will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 6 in the Holden Fine Arts Center parking lot and outside the Curran-McNeil-Ostrander dormitories and Oct. 13 at the Yellowjacket Union. Students are encouraged to tune in to presidential debates on Oct. 7, 15 and 22 via Zoom. All students can take the Jackets Vote Challenge, scoring points for activities such as registering to vote, posting pictures of themselves in Jackets Vote masks and attending the Link Center speaker series. Individuals and teams with the most points can earn prizes.
Visit the Jackets Vote website for more information, frequently asked questions, a list of events, links to voter registration through TurboVote and more. The next in the Link speaker series takes place from noon to 1 p.m. Oct. 13. Eric Liu, the CEO of Citizen University will speak on "Civic health: The future of our communities depends on it." Registration is available online at uwsuper.edu/liu.