Bellarmine is one of 234 universities in the nation—and one of only two in Kentucky—to be named a “Voter Friendly Campus” for making great strides in voter education and engagement despite the hurdles posed by a global pandemic.
To receive the designation, which was begun in 2016 by Campus Vote Project and NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, universities must submit a report of their civic engagement work and results in the most recent general election cycle
and make an action plan for upcoming years.
“This is a celebration of all the work Bellarmine faculty, staff and students have done to encourage voter registration and voter turnout,” said Madison Martin, the interim assistant director of Student Activities, who led Bellarmine’s
engagement efforts. “As one of only two schools in Kentucky with this designation [Centre College was the other], it assures me that the work we are doing sets us apart from other institutions and that we are setting our students up for a lifetime
of civic engagement.”
Bellarmine’s Student Activities Center is the hub of the university’s civic learning and voter engagement efforts. Because of COVID-19 limitations and the resulting hybrid learning environment, the SAC made greater use of social media
and online platforms to share information, Martin said.
Voter registration drives were held in person and online throughout the Fall 2020 semester. A dedicated website provided important dates and registration information. During the week of National Voter Registration Day (Sept. 22), a campus-wide email to all students reminded them to register and provided information on how to do so.
On Election Day, the president’s office sent an email encouraging students to vote. The SAC held its annual Get to the Polls party, handing out "I Am A Voter" T-shirts, cookies, stickers and other items. Public Safety provided shuttles to polling
Nationally, youth turnout (ages 18 to 29) in the 2020 presidential election was much higher than in 2016, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement: 52 to 55 percent of those eligible voted, compared to 42 to
44 percent in 2016.
“We saw the highest turnout ever for an election in this country in 2020, in spite of unprecedented obstacles from the global pandemic, a mix of remote and hybrid learning across campuses, along with the most election law changes across the country
in a six- month period in my lifetime, all at a time of extreme political polarization and social unrest,” said Campus Vote Project National Director Mike Burns. “Through the Voter Friendly Campus program, we know that hundreds of colleges
and universities were crucial in making sure that millions of student voters had the nonpartisan information and support they need to navigate these changes and successfully have their voices heard up and down the ballot.”
Bellarmine was also named a Voter Friendly Campus in 2016. The current designation is valid through December 2022.