May 24, 2019 | 60° F

Rutgers joins Big Ten Voting Challenge to bolster civic engagement on campus

Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez |

President Robert L. Barchi announced that Rutgers will be participating in a Big Ten competition intended to encourage students to get to the polls. The University with the highest turnout for this year's midterm elections will win a trophy, as will the most improved school.

Today, as part of a united effort to turn out the vote, Rutgers announced its participation in the Big Ten Voting Challenge — an initiative that aims to boost civic engagement in a demographic with historically low voter turnout.

University President Robert L. Barchi announced Rutgers’ participation in the competition through an email that was signed by the leaders of all 14 Big Ten schools.

“Our shared goal is activating full participation in our democracy and supporting habits of robust civic engagement,” Barchi said in the email.

This year, out of the nearly 5.8 million registered voters in New Jersey, only 13 percent went to the polls to vote in the gubernatorial primaries. Now, with the race underfoot, there is a great deal of speculation regarding how many people will take part in deciding the general race, according to NJ Advance Media

New Jersey has never seen a turnout of more than 40 percent.

Following the 2018 elections, the Big Ten school with the highest eligible voter turnout and the one with the most improved turnout will both be awarded trophies. At Rutgers, the competition will be accompanied by efforts by campus organizations to register eligible voters and educate them on the issues.

NJPIRG’s leading campaign this year is called the New Voters Project. Its primary goal is to engage younger voters and change the climate that surrounds local politics, said NJPIRG campus organizer John Bacchus.

“With a history of deplorably low voter turnout amongst youth voters, we're aiming to break the cycle of a disengaged young constituency, and disinterested politicians, by registering 2,000 Rutgers students to vote and providing them with information and support to get to the polls on Nov. 7,” Bacchus said in an email. “Rutgers is the largest body of college students in New Jersey, so we have the opportunity to have a large impact on this upcoming election through voter mobilization."

The Eagleton Institute of Politics is working towards a similar goal through its ongoing Youth Political Participation Program. Last year, Eagleton’s efforts prompted 1,100 Rutgers students to register to vote, The Daily Targum reported.

Eagleton also provides shuttles, educational events and educational watch parties for the student body.

“One of the most important values we teach at our universities is the importance of civic engagement. Voting in elections gives our students a voice in the democratic process and in the decisions that affect local, state and national issues,” said Rutgers—New Brunswick Chancellor Debasish Dutta. “The Big Ten Voting Challenge is a nonpartisan initiative to encourage students to exercise their right to vote, which is among the most fundamental opportunities to be an active and engaged citizen.”

Kira Herzog is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science and journalism and media studies. She is the news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @kiraherzog1 for more.

Kira Herzog

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