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Baldwin Wallace movement spurs increased campus election engagement

Your vote counts sign

In this most unusual election year, there are many reports that early voter participation by young people, known for higher than average voter apathy, is surging ahead of election day.

That's certainly the hope of Jackets Engaged, a BW organization working to build up campus voter engagement, even as pandemic health safety restrictions have changed the group's tactics.

Born to fight apathy

Jackets Engaged, a student leadership team within BW's Brain Center for Community Engagement, was born in response to 2014 campus surveys showing that many students were apathetic about civic involvement.

After signing on to the national ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, the group teamed up with #BWVOTES, a voter registration initiative launched by students, faculty and staff in the BW Conservatory, to boost the knowledge and enthusiasm for civic engagement.

Next level success

Members of the Jackets Engaged team celebrate with a first-time voter at a campus registration drive this fall.With impressive increases in campus election participation achieved during the 2016 general election and the 2018 midterms, Jackets Engaged set an ambitious 2020-21 action plan to build on those successes.

"We have been working hard to provide students with all the information they need about voting through class presentations, yard signs and even hosting a Civic LEAD Series presentation through the Brain Center," explained Jackets Engaged leader and political science junior Anxhela Dalipi. "Due to COVID, there were many events that we could not hold, but we relied on social media and some outdoor social distanced registration events on campus."

"I am very proud of how many students we were able to register and offer voting information to this year," Dalipi adds. "I hope students have realized how important their vote is."

What now? After election day

The BW Brain Center and Jackets Engaged will challenge students to stay involved in civic life after election day.Beyond election day, campus leaders are also rallying students, faculty and staff of all political stripes to come together and to stay engaged.

Future events include a Post-Election Analysis Forum, presented by the BW Department of Politics and Global Citizenship on November 5, a Peace Flag project at the Strosacker Union November 3-6, and an Advocacy and Letter Writing Workshop on November 19.

"We know that voting is vital, but it is not the end of the story," says Julie Robinson, associate director of the Brain Center. "No matter what the outcome and how students may feel about it, we hope to empower them to stay engaged and understand other ways they can use their voices to make a real impact. Writing an effective letter to our elected representatives is just one avenue."

In early February, the Brain Center hosts BW's annual Social Change Summit, designed to "help students move from feelings of anxiety, apathy and angst with current events into ACTION for social justice and positive social change."

Civic engagement doesn't come around once every four years at BW. It's a year-round effort.

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