You have to be 18 to vote, which means a lot of people’s first time casting a ballot is in college. 

That’s why Appalachian State University's Director of the Office of Community-Engaged Leadership Heather Jo Mashburn says higher education institutions should support them in doing that. 

“We believe that we have an important role to play in preparing our students to participate in a democracy," she said. "And doing that very intentionally and in a disciplined way to be nonpartisan is really our goal.”

App State earned a Voter Friendly Campus designation this year, and in 2020, had the highest rate of voter registration of all schools in North Carolina at 93.7%. 

Mashburn says these recognitions are largely due to the establishment of a student voter coalition. 

“The easiest way to reach students is with other students," she said. "And so we have capitalized on those students who were interested in this work, to share with their peers about why it's important to be registered to vote, why it's important to go out to vote, and let your voice be heard.”

The coalition is made up of about a dozen undergraduates who provide nonpartisan voter education through tabling, presentations, and occasionally, handing out doughnuts so students “do not” forget to vote. 

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University was also recognized this year for similar efforts, including voter registration, education, and excitement programs, and encouraging students to attend local civic meetings. 

“We believe that civic engagement is not a mere duty during election seasons but a year-round commitment," said Tiffany Seawright, the director of N.C. A&T'S Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement, in a press release. "By participating in initiatives like the Vote Friendly Campus program, we underscore our dedication to nurturing informed, responsible citizens who understand the profound impact of their involvement in the democratic process."

App State and N.C. A&T were just two of 14 North Carolina schools given a Voter Friendly Campus designation this year.

Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.

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