University of Tampa recognized for its plan to increase student voting

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University of Tampa is one of 124 colleges nationwide being recognized by the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. Photo by Sean Kinane for WMNF News (2021).

The University of Tampa received the Highly Established Action Plan Seal from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. This is the second year the school was recognized, the first in 2022.

ALL IN developed the seal of recognition for higher education institutions with a strong action plan to increase student voting, and promote civic learning and political engagement.

Student voting at UT spiked 41% between 2016 and 2020. School officials believe it occurred partly due to their campus-wide initiative led by the nonpartisan ALL IN coalition.

UT’s current action plan has four parts: weaving voter education, two staff positions dedicated to civic engagement, a new website called UTampaVotes!, and a new student-led board.

The website is dedicated to helping students with voter education resources and aid in the registration process. UTampaVotes! aims to “empower the UT community to achieve excellence in non-partisan democratic engagement.”

In addition, the website provides students with information about their voter registration status and how to get new student resources. They can also learn how to register to vote, get an absentee ballot, and find information on their candidates and elections.

“It’s the student’s arm to engage other students. Students to students to students. It’s something new we have done in the past,” UT Director of Community Engagement Ian McGinnity said.

“Ultimately we want students to be a face as much as faculty and staff,” he added.

McGinnity also co-leads the UTampa Democracy Coalition– the collaborative team that is a part of the action plan. Bringing a student-led board back into the program is a big part of McGinnity’s future plans.

He said that obtaining more voters at UT is a challenge because there are a lot of out-of-state and international students. The general election deadline is Oct. 7, just a few weeks after the semester begins.

With these challenges, McGinnity wants to continue to find solutions to make it easier to get students out and vote. 

“One thing at UT is we ultimately want students to gain Spartan Ready company,” he said. “One of those is life skills among many others. One really big life skill is participating in a community.”

By developing a habit of voting, McGinnity hopes it becomes a part of students’ lives outside of school and can help them contribute to other communities.

For more information, UTampaVotes!‘s Instagram page has resources about upcoming elections.

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