Nonpartisan group calls for voter education and increased access
LANSING — December 18, 2019 – Members of the Department of State Student Advisory Task Force today delivered preliminary recommendations to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on how to improve voter engagement among young people and college students.
The Department of State formed this first-of-its-kind nonpartisan task force of college, community college and university students this past fall. The task force includes 32 students from 23 colleges, community colleges and universities throughout Michigan with hometowns across the state.
Historically, students in Michigan have faced significant barriers to voting and participated in elections at lower rates than other age groups. The task force was established to combat this historic participation gap and to advise the Department of State on the barriers and solutions to youth engagement in Michigan.
“I’m proud of the work our student task force did this year to identify barriers and offer solutions for students and young people across the state of Michigan.” Secretary Jocelyn Benson said. “They call on all of us to do our part, and I look forward to working with leaders across the state to level barriers for young voters.”
The report catalogs numerous barriers impacting youth and student voters at the state, local, university and individual levels. For each barrier, the students recommend solutions. Suggested best practices and recommendations are included at the end of the report.
The report details many different solutions to improve student engagement in our democracy, including the following highlights:
1. Voter Education – The importance of youth voter education on both how to vote and why voting matters repeatedly came up in task force discussions. Members recommend that all leaders at the local, K-12, higher education and state government levels consider how they could more effectively educate students about their voting rights through various reforms or initiatives.
2. On-Campus Resources – Students on the task force recommend each school and university should feature either satellite clerk offices or on-campus polling location(s), and the Department of State should increase the use of the mobile Secretary of State branch office on campuses. This was the single category of recommendations most students voted on as their top priority.
3. Absentee Voting – Task force members also recommend a number of absentee voter ballot-related solutions, all with the intention of creating more convenient avenues for both requesting and returning an AV ballot. Recommendations include creating an online AV ballot application, pre-paid postage, on-campus drop boxes, and requiring a permanent AV ballot application list.
Task force members met three times in person and several times via conference call between September and November 2019. In 2020, they will continue to work with the Secretary of State’s Office as student engagement liaisons on their respective campuses. Learn more about the task force at Michigan.gov/SOSStudentTaskForce.