On eve of Massachusetts early voting, UMass President’s Office hosts student voter engagement summit

BOSTON – With early voting set to start tomorrow across Massachusetts, student leaders from all five UMass campuses gathered virtually at a voter engagement summit hosted by UMass President Marty Meehan’s office to discuss ongoing engagement efforts and share best practices. The event was the latest initiative in the #UMassVotes campaign, which was launched when President Meehan signed onto the nationwide ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge in August.

The five elected student trustees, who collectively represent 75,000 UMass students, issued a joint statement in support of the UMass Votes campaign in September, saying: “Given all that our nation has experienced this year – and all that has happened throughout the world – we believe it is critically important to maximize the participation of younger voters in this election.”

The student-led #UMassVotes campaign aims to increase the overall percentage of UMass students who register and vote over the last presidential election year. According to the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University, 56% of all UMass students voted in the 2016 presidential election. While UMass students voted at a higher rate (56%) than their peers nationwide (46.1%), their turnout was less than the overall national turnout (61.4%) in 2016.

At the summit, UMass student leaders highlighted a number of initiatives they are spearheading to encourage their fellow students to vote. To-date, UMass students have led with frequent communications such as published voter guides, digital organizing, awareness videos, voter registration competitions and more.

UMass President Marty Meehan commended the students for their leadership and dedication to this initiative. “One thing we know for sure is that young people are energized as never before and are providing vital leadership on environmental, economic and social justice issues,” Meehan said. “We need tomorrow’s generation to step forward and help us fix the mess that is pulling us down today. Students need to speak out, help us chart a new course, and vote.”

“As we encourage students to vote and become more deeply engaged in the democratic process, our nation’s colleges and universities must also be clear about their commitment to democracy and their intention to act as sentinels on its behalf,” Meehan said. “As institutions dedicated to truth, fairness and the public good, our commitment to democratic ideals and principles must be unmistakable and unwavering.”

The summit also included presentations from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge and MASSPIRG Students about the importance of voter engagement and what students can do to encourage their peers to register and to vote.

During her remarks, ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge Executive Director Jen Domagal-Goldman praised the UMass Votes campaign. “What is happening at the UMass system really sets the standard for higher education systems across the country,” said Domagal-Goldman.  

Since 2016 the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, a program of Civic Nation, has been supporting and recognizing campuses committed to advancing nonpartisan democratic engagement by increasing opportunities for student civic learning, political engagement, and voter participation.  

MASSPIRG Students is a statewide, student-funded and student-directed, nonpartisan group with chapters on college campuses. Combining student enthusiasm with professional staff and expertise, MASSPIRG Students runs campaigns to protect the environment and public health, increase youth voter participation, and make textbooks more affordable.