UC Votes urges campus participation as midterm elections loom

Spectrum News speaks with UC staff and students about voter participation for young Americans

Midterm elections are near — Tuesday, Nov. 8 — and the UC Center for Community Engagement through its initiative UC Votes is encouraging college students to not only vote, but take some time to cast a smart ballot. 

Nationally, voter turnout for Americans ages 18 to 29 has increased to 50% or an 11 point uptick from 2016 to 2020, according to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.

But even with that dramatic increase, voter turnout for younger Americans trails that of other demographics. Overall 66.8% of eligible Americans voted in the 2020 election, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Keith Lanser

Keith Lanser/photo provided.

“Everything we do through UC Votes is really structured to get at two important pieces of data — voter registration and our student voting rate,” says Keith Lanser, assistant director of the UC Center for Community Engagement. “We register students to vote, we educate students about voting as well as share what’s going to be on the ballot.”

“We ensure ballot access and we turn out the vote,” says Lanser. “We did a lot for voter registration this year that we haven’t done in the past.”

Lanser spoke with Spectrum News for a segment about increasing youth voter participation. 

UC Votes did voter registration during student orientation, UC’s Welcome Week, on National Voter Registration Day and focused more attention at UC Blue Ash and UC Clermont. It also celebrated Constitution Day at UC with all kinds of activities related to voter education and civic engagement.

Nonpartisan voter education webinars help students learn how to vote, offer information on voter identification, explain why minority voting matters and suggest how to make a voting plan.

Two UC students shown at a voter registration booth on campus.

UC students working with UC Votes staff a voter registration station on the Uptown campus. Photo provided.

Lanser was able to hire a team of paid student workers with support from organizations such as Campus Vote Project and Civic Influencers.That backing boosted registration from 125 students last year to 1,160 students registered for this year’s election. UC Votes also signed a contract with TurboVote, an American nonprofit website that seeks to increase voter turnout, which allows UC students to access information on polling sites, online voter registration, early and online voting and voting reminders.

Lanser offers some tips for voting during the midterms:

  • Check your voter registration status. Make sure you are registered and if you aren’t it is too late for this election, but not the next.
  • Choose your voting method. If you are voting in-person make sure you check your polling site location and times. In Ohio, early voting is permitted, while in Kentucky an absentee ballot is available for those unable to vote in person. Voting by mail would have been an option earlier this month, but being so close to the election there is the possibility the ballot will not arrive at the county Board of Elections in time.
  • Students registered to vote using their campus address can go to the UC online port Catalyst and print out their voter address. This is a form of voter identification that is accepted.
  • Educate yourself about what’s going to be on the ballot. Pick up the nonpartisan League of Women’s voters’ guide. Students can also go to the county Board of Elections website to look up their sample ballot or visit Vote411.org online.
  • Visit UC Votes online as the site has a wealth of information.

Remember Election Day is Nov. 8 and regular UC classes are suspended, as the university has named this day a Reading Day. There is plenty of time to visit the polls.

If you are in line at a polling location on Election Day by 7:30 p.m. you have a right to vote so don’t leave the line. If election officials don’t accept your voter identification, you have a right to fill out a provisional ballot.

UC Votes will have booths with more information about voting during the week before elections with stations along MainStreet on the UC Uptown campus.

Raphael Hicks

Raphael Hicks is a fifth-year engineering student at UC.

Students like Raphael Hicks, a fifth-year engineering student at UC, say voting and staying engaged is important not only for midterm elections, but every election.

“Traditionally we only see engagement in voting during years of the presidential election, which while important, does not have the most direct impact on our lives,” says Hicks, a former UC student government member. “Your state and local officials have a more direct impact on your everyday life ranging from education to criminal justice reform, infrastructure, public safety and more.”

Hicks also shared his thoughts with Spectrum News for a segment about increasing voter participation among the youngest demographic in Ohio, voters who are 18 and 19 years old. That segment also featured comments from David Niven, PhD, associate professor in the College of Arts & Sciences, and students in his political science class.

Dr. David Niven

Dr. David Niven is an associate professor of political science at UC.

“When looking at the stakes, your choice to not vote is silencing your right to choose candidates who will best align with your ideology,” says Hicks. “You're choosing to allow whatever outcome from the elections to dictate your life and well-being for the upcoming term which can last years depending on the office won.”

“Think about whatever issue or change you want to see in your local community or state and think about what resources you need or want to maintain. It can be resources for hospitalization, senior citizens like your grandparents and money for the schools your siblings will have to go to,” says Hicks. “When you choose not to exercise your right to vote, you allow others to decide what resources will continue and allow an outcome that might not be favorable for you and your community.”

Learn more about UC Votes and the UC Center for Community Engagement online.

Featured image shows a trio of UC students who participated in a Constitution Day event hosted by the UC Center for Community Engagement. That event allow students to take mock naturalization tests to see if they would pass the nationalization test that is required for new American citizens.

Impact Lives Here

The University of Cincinnati is leading public urban universities into a new era of innovation and impact. Our faculty, staff and students are saving lives, changing outcomes and bending the future in our city's direction. Next Lives Here.

Related Stories


UC‘s College of Arts and Sciences taps innovative new leadership

December 20, 2023

The College of Arts and Sciences announced Ryan J. White and Rina Williams as the newest divisional deans of Natural Sciences and Social Sciences. White and Kennedy’s inclusion will bring new focuses and structure around student success and the college of Arts and Sciences’ advancement. Both will officially begin their new terms on Jan. 1, 2024.


What is UC’s 4 + 1 program?

December 4, 2023

You may be a UC student thinking about taking your education to the next level — UC’s College of Arts and Sciences has a pathway to help you do just that. A&S has no fewer than 15 five-year programs — from biological sciences to Spanish to psychology — where you can earn both your bachelor’s and master’s degrees in just five years, versus the traditional six-year track. The Bachelors and Master’s 4 + 1 Program is designed to increase your marketability and deepen your understanding of the subject matter. And in an increasingly competitive job market, you may want to investigate an additional year of study.

Debug Query for this