Meramec Faculty, Staff Engage Students in 2020 Election
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
It’s an election year, a fact most adults have a hard time ignoring. From political commercials to social media ads, yard signs to polling calls and texts, many Americans are inundated with election information at every turn.
All this political outreach, however, seems to have little affect on the turnout of young voters ages 18-24. According to Wikipedia, they are the lowest percentage of voters in every election.
Debbie Corson, coordinator of service learning and civic engagement, is leading the charge at St. Louis Community College-Meramec to raise voter awareness.
“I have always believed that voting is our voice and that young people should practice that right and responsibility both nationally and locally,” said Corson. “Some people may think their vote doesn’t count, but I think it does. There have been times when very few votes have determined the election.”
Corson encourages faculty and staff to incorporate the election into their coursework or other interactions with students. She’s provided them with the STLCC Votes toolkit, including ideas about how to integrate election issues into their courses. She also asks faculty to share what they’re doing in their classrooms as a means to inspire others.
“This year’s election and the political process in general aren’t just relevant to history or political science courses,” said Corson. “We’ve had graphic design classes create flyers to promote voting, English students have been assigned to write a narrative reflection about their attitudes and experiences regarding voting, and sociology classes have engaged in discussions on how to verify or refute the information provided in political campaign ads. The election really is relevant across all disciplines.”
Professor Cynthia Ballentine has even found ways to incorporate the importance of voting in occupational therapy classes.
Students will debate the importance of voting in relation to health care initiatives and is considering having them do research on local, state and national political candidates to determine if the initiatives they support would positively or negatively impact occupational therapy service delivery.
“As healthcare providers in general and OT practitioners in particular, legislation plays a critical role in how we deliver our services, to whom we can deliver our services, how we get paid for our services and even if we can deliver our services,” said Ballentine. “In the occupational therapy program, we teach students about their role in not only advocating for the profession of occupational therapy, but also advocating for our clients’ rights to receive services that can help them live their lives to the highest potential. Our faculty believe it is critical that students are aware of the political issues that can affect their livelihood and to make their voices heard by voting.”
A District Effort
Every election year, each STLCC campus promotes awareness and steps up outreach to students about the importance of voting. In 2020, there is a new effort to encourage young people to register as poll workers.
“Poll workers are typically older, retired adults,” Corson said. “They are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19, so nationally there is a push for younger people to sign up to work polls this year.”
To inform students of the opportunity, faculty and staff invited students to participate in webinars about poll worker participation, presented by Missouri Campus Compact.
Each campus is holding virtual events on various election topics to help increase election engagement among students. Events include "Inspired to Vote: Voting Across Generations" and "Party Lines: Understanding Opposing Views in Politics."
A full list of events can be found on the College’s event calendar.
St. Louis Community College developed a voter information page for all students, faculty and staff.
In Missouri, the last day to register new voters for the November 2020 election is Oct. 7. To register to vote online, you need to have a touchscreen device to sign the registration application. If you do not have a touchscreen device, the registration form can be printed and mailed. Voter registration applications must be postmarked by Oct. 7.