Challenge Honors Higher Education Institutions for Student Voter Engagement Efforts During the 2020 Election

ALL In Gold Seal

MACON – Mercer University received the Best Action Plan Award and the Gold Seal in the 2021 ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge.

The Best Action Plan Award recognizes institutional efforts to develop and implement a campus democratic engagement action plan to help college students to improve nonpartisan civic learning, political engagement and voter participation. Mercer developed its action plan as part of the SoCon Votes competition, the first NCAA Division I conference championship for voter participation.

The Gold Seal recognizes institutions with a student voter participation rate between 70-79% for the 2020 presidential election. Mercer’s voting rate was 72.5% – well above the national average of 66% – in 2020. Furthermore, the University’s voter registration rate was 91%.

“Mercer’s voting results reflect years of institutional commitment to civic learning and democratic engagement,” said Lauren Shinholster, coordinator of community engagement. “Initiatives such as SoCon Votes, along with the organizing efforts of student groups such as Mobilize Mercer, have all contributed to the voting rates seen in 2020. Our voting success demonstrates that our students care deeply about our democracy. I am proud that Mercerians recognize the importance of voting, and I am encouraged by our students’ willingness to mobilize their peers to get out the vote.”

The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge hosted its third biennial awards ceremony on Nov. 8 to recognize select higher education institutions, educators and students for their extraordinary work in student voter engagement. Mercer previously received the Platinum Seal and Best in Class: Medium, Private, 4-Year Campus Action Plan Award for the 2018 midterm election and the Bronze Seal for the 2016 presidential election.

The 2020 presidential election engaged the largest and most diverse group of college students in U.S. history. More than 840 institutions enrolling close to 9 million students participated in the ALL IN Challenge.

The 2020 election cycle saw unprecedented voter registration and turnout among college students according to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), a research study of the Institute for Democracy in Higher Education (IDHE) at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University.

IDHE reported that 66% of college students voted in the 2020 election, a 14-point increase from 2016. Mercer’s voting rate increased by 14.4 percentage points.

“The rise in voter participation and engagement for college students in last year’s presidential election amidst a global pandemic was tremendous and will undoubtedly be tied to the tireless efforts of the dedicated students, faculty, administrators and partner organizations that are part of the ALL IN Challenge network,” said Jen Domagal-Goldman, executive director of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. “The hard work of these trailblazing honorees will help support many of the country’s future leaders in fulfilling the equitable, engaged vision of democracy to which we aspire.”

About the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge 

The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge (ALL IN) is a national, nonpartisan initiative of Civic Nation, a 501(c)(3) organization. ALL IN strives for a more inclusive democracy—one in which all voices are heard. We believe that higher education plays a role in graduating students into voters and in closing electoral participation gaps that persist by race and age. Through an intentionally designed program—which provides structure, support, and recognition—ALL IN strengthens college and university efforts to improve civic learning, political engagement, and voter participation. Ensuring that students are registered to vote and participate in all elections is a key component of our work.

Kyle is the director of media relations at Mercer. In addition to being the primary media contact for most academic and administrative units of the university, he coordinates hometown and university news releases and serves as editor of the News@Mercer e-newsletter and Reach magazine.​