University students are determined to surpass past voter turnout in the upcoming election

The presidential election is mere weeks away, and students are showing more interest in engagement than in past election years.


Audrey Rauth

Sophomore Rose Lloyd-Slifkin, who studies political science and gender, women and sexuality studies, poses in front of the Weisman Art Museum on Thursday, Sept. 24. The Weisman is one of the voting locations available to students who are living on campus in dorms.

Lydia Morrell, City Reporter

With weeks dwindling before the election, University of Minnesota students are aiming to exceed past record voter turnout — and interest is mounting.

Two years ago, the University earned the highest student voter turnout across large public universities nationwide, with nearly 60% of students voting. Now, despite in-person limitations, the University and eager student volunteers are looking to top that number.

“What I have seen is a lot more concern with voting this year than I’ve ever seen before,” said Mike Miller, University legislative advocacy coordinator.

Miller said that he was receiving three to four emails a day from student groups asking if they can contribute to voter turnout efforts. In the 2016 election year, he said he had not received any emails from interested students.

“There’s been a lot of unrest recently, based on all kinds of things going on in society,” Miller said. “And the best way to change those things is to vote.”

Rose Lloyd-Slifkin — head of Row The Vote, a student-voter initiative created in August by the Minnesota Student Association — said there has been a lot of student interest in becoming ambassadors. They already surpassed their goal of recruiting 50 ambassadors and are now aiming for 75.

“It definitely seems like civic engagement is increasing, especially in our city,” Lloyd-Slifkin said. The police killing of George Floyd motivated students to make sure that their voices are heard on the issues that they care about, she said.

Students and a younger generation of voters are more socially aware and politically inclined, said Row The Vote ambassador Simran Chugani. “They’re not afraid to be taboo and talk about political and social issues,” she said.

However, the older generations are the ones currently making decisions in the country, said Meghan Cahill, a fourth-year University student and CA who promotes voter engagement throughout her dorm.

“We’re the ones that have to live with the consequences for the rest of our 50 to 80 years,” Cahill said.

The younger age group has the potential to influence this election, she said. A large body of students and young people now have their first opportunity to cast a ballot, and many partisan political student groups are currently mobilizing in preparation for the Nov. 3 election.

Each Row The Vote ambassador reaches out to their friends and followers on social media to talk about their registration status and answer questions concerning voting.

“It creates this chain reaction of students who are getting more engaged in voting,” Chugani said.

During quarantine, interest in civic engagement and activism has increased, Lloyd-Slifkin said. It provides a unique opportunity to reach student voters, especially with the ease of outreach on social media.

Despite COVID-19 limitations on in-person outreach, organizers are not deterred. Row The Vote’s goal is to have at least 85% of undergraduate students register to vote, and for 75% of students to cast a ballot.

“We are excited to follow up with ambassadors afterwards and talk about what went well and how we can improve, because we want to win our competitions for voter registration,” Lloyd-Slifkin said. “But we also want to just see registration increase exponentially for years to come.”