In the 2014 midterm election, just 14 percent of the University of Michigan student body voted. With the 2018 midterm nearing, the University is aiming to change that, in an effort driven in large part by Ford School professor Edie Goldenberg. Reflecting on the 2014 stats, Goldenberg told Bridge Magazine, “As a political science professor, I felt like somehow I hadn’t been doing my job very well. The students care about issues, many of them passionately. But they don’t seem to connect the dots between the issues they care about and the elected officer-holder.”
U-M is not alone in this long-standing trend, but it seems to be shifting. Ted Roelofs’ September 13, 2018 article entitled “Inspired by Parkland, a surge in young voter registration in Michigan” explores the jump in new 18- to 29-year-olds registering to vote after the Feb. 14 high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Historically, voter turnout among the youngest legal voters has been low. Many researchers, including Goldenberg, attribute low college student turnout to voting laws that do not cater well to first-time voters, many of whom just moved to a new, temporary address. For this year’s election, Goldenberg is spearheading the Big Ten challenge, where the conference’s schools compete on which can register the most students. Her goal is to double the percentage of U-M student voters this year. It’s off to a good start, with 10,000 U-M students registered so far.
Edie N. Goldenberg is a professor of political science and public policy. She served as director of the Ford School from 1987—89. Her research interests include voting turnout of millennials, and in 2017 she founded a Michigan group called Turn Up Turnout (TUT).