Helping to educate students on voting

Kelly Feng, Managing Editor

The upcoming election will have several candidates on the ballot, most notably a seat on the Supreme Court, so there has never been a better time to boost voter awareness.  

Madison College is looking for two Democracy Fellows to represent the college, emphasizing engaging other students about voter awareness and civic responsibility. Partnering with the Campus Vote Project (CVP) website, the college seeks self-motivated, democratically engaged and politically interested students. 

Democracy Fellows need to be willing to help other students register to vote and engage in dialogue around democracy. The CVP interviews and hires the Fellows.  

According to Noah Foster, Wisconsin Deputy State Coordinator, Campus Vote Project, a Democracy Fellow is a student who encourages civic engagement but remains nonpartisan in their actions.  

How a student goes about encouraging civic engagement is up to them and their schedule.  

Some Fellows take the typical route of tabling during lunch periods and encouraging students to register and vote.  

Other Fellows take a different path, reaching out to local politicians, setting up forums or debates at their schools that students can attend and educating and motivating those students. 

Foster emphasizes that it is up to the fellow to self-lead. 

“A Fellow for us looks a little bit different on every campus,” said Foster. “We’re big fans of letting the fellows decide how they want to do their work. The only thing we ask is that they try to promote civic engagement and remain nonpartisan in their actions.” 

Often, a student hesitates to apply because they are unsure if they’ve met any particular criteria. Foster emphasizes there are no specific criteria to be a fellow. “You don’t even have to be a voting citizen to be a Fellow. We have a lot of those who are international students, and they do a wonderful job.”  

The fellowship stands out among other internships because it is a paid internship.  Because the position offers a paid internship and the ability to customize a student’s hours and work time around their own schedule, the college hopes this flexibility will encourage students to apply for the internship.  

A large part of civic engagement and promoting voter awareness is to help students tackle the barriers they may face. A significant part of being a Fellow is educating students about voting barriers, how to overcome them and what is real and what is not.  

Foster notes one barrier is the fact that college students frequently change addresses each year, sometimes from semester to semester. These moves require updating their residence on their voter registration, an unnecessary difficulty that can be complicated, particularly for students without an in-state voter ID.  

“We’re not always able to remove those barriers because a lot of them are built into our legal system, and it’s very hard, if not impossible, to change our legal system, at least not at our level,” Foster said.   

The fellowship is to make voting clear to college students and how to overcome those barriers. Foster added that there are also nonexistent barriers that college students think exist but don’t exist. 

An example of a nonexistent barrier is if a student is originally from Illinois but attending a school in Wisconsin, a student might assume that they can’t vote in Wisconsin. However, that isn’t true and isn’t a real barrier.  

A fellow’s primary goal is to get students interested in voting and give them a reason to go to the polls. Citizens need to know why their votes make a difference and why an election is important to them and they need to know their voice has an impact.  

An upcoming event that involves Democracy Fellows is that Student Life will offer a voter registration event at the Truax Campus Cafeteria on Monday, March 6, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  

Brianna Stapleton Welch, a Student Life coordinator, said, “We hope to collaborate with the Fellows to implement that event, as well as any other events they might want to try.” 

Stapleton Welch also noted Student Life would participate in Get Out the Vote events on April 4 (Election Day) at both Truax and South campuses. The times and locations for those events are still pending.