All-in effort to encourage student voter engagement

Campus push to encourage students to flex their civic muscle


Andres Sanchez

Get out the vote effort featured at Campus fun day

Kelly Feng, Managing Editor

Many can relate to the fall season — the changing leaves, pumpkin spice lattes and cozy campfires. Madison College has added another hallmark to autumn —increasing voter awareness.  

As the student program advisor of Student Life, Brianna Stapleton Welch’s responsibilities include advising the Volunteer Center student organization and co-advising the Student Ambassadors. She is also tasked with supporting student voter engagement. 

Stapleton Welch doesn’t consider it a job, but a calling. 

“Voter engagement is important because voting is an opportunity to give input in the systems that shape our everyday lives,” said Stapleton Welch. “We interact with government systems daily: roads, libraries, mail and schools (including Madison College)—voting is one way to affect these systems.” 

The process of student voter engagement began a few years ago when Madison College was invited to be part of the “All In Campus Democracy Challenge.” This organization empowers colleges and universities to achieve excellence in nonpartisan student democratic engagement.  

President Dr. Jack E. Daniels, III pledged to make Madison College’s students engaged, committing to the challenge. As part of this challenge, the school agrees to make civic engagement and voter education opportune for students as part of the college’s foundation.  

The “All In Challenge” then asked the college to submit a plan of how they were going to increase voter awareness. That’s where the student voter awareness team comes in.  


The Plan  

In 2018, Stapleton Welch and colleague Ellie Rome co-wrote a plan, spelling out a proposal about aspects that would improve awareness. The plan was timed to increase awareness before the 2020 elections.  

Except they submitted the plan just weeks before the COVID-19 shutdown.  

The team thought they would produce events during the 2020 election year, but that didn’t happen because most events went virtual. As a result, they wrote a plan for the 2020 election that they weren’t able to implement as they originally envisioned. 

Stapleton Welch said they resubmitted a plan for the 2022 midterms this spring. With that plan, they have been able to carry out their mission more personably.  

The “All In Campus Democracy Challenge” recently recognized the plan as a “Highly Established Action Plan,” which Stapleton Welch explains as “basically getting a thumbs up for the plan.” 


Coffee Cup Sleeves 

Stapleton Welch rattled off the many aspects of the plan devised to engage students.  One example is how the team received 1,300 coffee sleeves from the campus coffee shops and put stickers on them that list Madison’s voter registration sites.  

Another critical piece is Madison College Turbo Vote, a customized voter registration site for Madison College. Students, staff and faculty can go to that site and register to vote and update their phone number or address.  

After students register, they can sign up to receive text deadline updates or request an absentee ballot. The site also sends reminders about upcoming elections.  

Because not all students at the school are eligible to vote, Madison Turbo Vote also provides younger people with an opportunity to pledge. 

“We have a lot of students at Madison College in our Early College Programs who are under 18, so they’re not eligible to vote yet. But with this site, they can pledge to vote,” said Stapleton Welch. 

Madison Turbo Vote will text the student on their 18th birthday, encouraging them to register to vote.  

Around the campus, Stapleton Welch and the team have found ways to hand out information, such as their Fall Festival and the student-athlete orientation.  

Madison College also sends an online newsletter to anyone who wants more voting information. With the team tabling at the Truax and Goodman South, they have contacted the regional campuses, distributed handouts and showed slides on the digital screens on those campuses to help reach students.  

Stapleton Welch is excited about the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 8 and the events that will lead up to that day. 

She points out National Voter Education Week, which begins the week of Oct. 3.  


Breakfast and Ballots  

Beginning with a complimentary breakfast, attendees will learn about what’s on the ballot. The breakfast and ballot events are on Oct. 3 and Nov. 3 from 9 -10:30 a.m. on both days. Students can access more information about this event with the WolfPack app. 

She says students must learn what is on a ballot, as it isn’t always about the governor or senate races.  

Stapleton Welch says it’s essential to know the local assembly races and races for the secretary of state and the state treasurer. In addition to voting for candidates, voter awareness includes being informed of local referenda in their county or community, as the voter might be trying to get some input.  

She notes that if students see something on the ballot and don’t know who to vote for, the voter awareness team shares non-partisan resources where they explore candidate positions. 

She feels this year is more manageable, and student voter awareness is more accessible with in-person campus events. “We can sit at a table and say to everyone who walks by ‘Hey, are you ready to vote? How are you feeling? What do you need?’” she said.  

Stapleton Welch is optimistic about the interest and enthusiasm.  

 “I’ve only had positive engagement so far, and that’s been good. People seem willing to take the information. They might not have time to sit and register at the table, but they seem interested in learning more, which is great,” she said.