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  • Campus Vote Project

How Student Organizing Led To Historic Student Turnout For A Local Election

Wondering why no college students are showing up to your Friday night voter education event? If I had to guess, a college student’s Friday night might include a little more beer than ballots. For a student voting group at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, there was a simple solution to this issue. Students with the group canvassed college students waiting in line to enter bars and talked to them about the upcoming election for the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, bringing civic education to students, rather than students to civic education.

Attention on the race for the Supreme Court of Wisconsin was record-breaking. Spending on the race totaled over $45 million, almost tripling the previous national record for spending on a state supreme court race. Voter turnout in the state was more than 36% of the voting-age population, setting a new record for spring elections that don’t coincide with a presidential primary. While I didn’t track how many cups of coffee I consumed on Election Day, but I’m sure that broke some records too.

I worked on this election as an intern for BadgersVote, the nonpartisan student voting initiative of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. As someone working to increase student voter turnout, I would call this election quite a success. Statewide elections like this usually have lower turnout than general elections, so this spring election’s high turnout was especially novel. What worked this time around?


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