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UW-Eau Claire students engage in civic responsibility

| Judy Berthiaume

With more than $27 million already spent on television ads, the April 4 election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court is the most expensive judicial race in American history.

As campaign teams and special interest groups pour money into a race that will determine the majority control of the state’s highest court, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire student leaders are educating Blugolds about where, when and how to vote.

The Student Senate’s Intergovernmental Affairs Commission’s goal is for all students — regardless of their political affiliation — to have the election-related information they need to vote in April, says Hannah Kelly, a UW-Eau Claire junior who serves as the IGA director.

It’s important for students to have that information because “historically, college students have been a population that doesn’t vote as much either due to apathy or unequal access and knowledge,” says Kelly, a political science major and Spanish minor who also is earning certificates in social diversity and equity, diversity and inclusion-Peace Corps.

Those efforts already are making an impact, says Jake Wrasse, UW-Eau Claire’s legislative and community relations liaison.

For example, in the February 2018 Supreme Court primary election, there were 109 votes cast in Eau Claire’s Ward 20, which is primarily comprised of students living in the upper campus residence halls. In the February 2023 Supreme Court primary election, 310 votes were cast in Ward 20. So, voting rates in the ward increased by more than 184% from 2018-2023, Wrasse says.

“The university’s mission calls us to foster active citizenship among our students and increases in student voting over the past several years show Blugolds are continually becoming more engaged with this important civic responsibility,” Wrasse says.

When making decisions, policymakers often overlook college students even when their decisions directly impact students, Kelly says.

“So, it’s more important more than ever that we show up and act,” Kelly says. “It’s important that we vote so we can show policymakers that college students are a population that needs to be considered.”

With that goal in mind, the IGA is organizing several election-related initiatives prior to the April 4 election, Kelly says.

 The Student Senate will partner with the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization that promotes voting, to share voting-related information with students. Senate and LWV representatives will be in Davies Center from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. March 29.

On April 3, IGA members and the senate’s Communication Commission will jointly host Motivation Monday, a weekly event where senators interact with students. Beginning at noon April 3 outside of Davies Center, senators will promote voting, help students know where and how to vote, and share voter registration information, she says.

“These and other efforts by student leaders to encourage their classmates to register to vote and get to the polls will help many Blugolds vote for the first time, which is the first step in making voting a lifelong habit,” Wrasse says.

Kelly also encourages students to visit the Student Senate and MyVote Wisconsin websites to find voter registration information.