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Civic engagement panel to be held at Communication Arts and Sciences building

October 23, 2018
<p>"I Voted" stickers available at Murphy Elementary School on Aug. 7, 2018.</p>

"I Voted" stickers available at Murphy Elementary School on Aug. 7, 2018.

Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

A research panel titled "Civic Engagement in 2018: Mobilization, Political Behavior and Public Opinion in a Divided World" is aiming to help mobilize young voters and will be held on Oct. 24 at 4 p.m. in room 145 of the Communication Arts and Sciences building.

The concepts being studied in the project will be presented in a panel as a part of the Information and Media PhD Speaker Series. It will feature five speakers within the College of Communication Arts and Sciences and the College of Social Sciences.  

“Everyone on the panel will be part of this big vote project that we’re doing, which is a field experiment to try to understand how we can mobilize votes among first year MSU students. So, how do we get college students to turn out to vote?” Dr. Kjerstin Thorson, assistant professor in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, said. 

Though there are many organizations and groups on campus with the goal of registering MSU students to vote, many students are still not registered. 

“Michigan in particular makes it hard for students to vote. Some of the laws about when you have to register by, or how hard it is to get an absentee ballot, make it very difficult for students to vote. It seems so obvious that we would all agree that making sure everyone has an equal opportunity to vote would be an absolute fundamental piece, but it’s not,” Thorson said. “How do we both get people the information they need to know how to vote, but also feel like they should.”

Dr. Nazita Lajevardi, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science, said part of the effort with educating students is to make them aware of how their participation is integral to democracy. 

“One of the big problems is not voting, it’s registering," Lajevardi said. "Becoming an eligible voter in this state is very difficult. ... Registering to vote is a process, and I think in retrospect, probably spending a lot more time helping people register rather than this normative thing of 'voting is important.' I think we can sell them on (the idea that) you have a stake in democracy, but how do you claim that stake."

Melanie Medeiros, a Media and Information PhD student, said though registering is an important part of the voting process, the actual act of voting is something that everyone, especially young people, need to become accustomed to.

“If you start voting now, as a young person, you’re much more likely to go out and vote in that same election in the future. And also, a lot of the research we do focuses on how you have to express an interest in politics to get more information about politics. So, going out to vote now shows politicians that you’re interested in voting, so maybe you’ll be contacted about voting again in the future," Medeiros said. 

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