We’re Engaged! (Civically)


Katherine Gemmingen, Head Copyeditor

Featured image provided by the Brown School of Washington University
All other images provided by Katherine Gemmingen

Last Thursday, September 12, McKendree was represented by three students and one professor at Washington University in St. Louis. Katherine Gemmingen, Chandler Henson, Caden Owens, and Dr. Ann Collins all went to the 2019 Campus & Community Voter Engagement Summit to focus on the theme of this year’s summit, which was “Pathways to Participation: Creating Environments to Empower Student Voters.” The event was hosted by the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement and the Center for Social Development in the Brown School, both of which are part of Washington University, as well as the Campus Election Engagement Project.

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Panel discussion

The summit consisted of two roundtable discussions, a keynote speech, panel discussion, and a guided group discussion. Speakers included Washington University professors, a St. Louis County Executive, Republican and Democrat directors for St. Louis City and County Boards of Elections, Madison County Clerk, representatives from the St. Louis Area Voter Protection Coalition and the St. Louis Area Voter Initiative, Director of Operations at the Illinois State Board of Elections, and representatives from Campus Compact.

While McKendree had three student representatives, there was only one other undergraduate student, and she was from University of Missouri St. Louis. There were a couple other professors besides Dr. Collins, and the rest of the attendees were from university student affairs offices and various other campus positions.

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Throughout the summit, civic engagement experts discussed ways to improve voter engagement on campuses. An overarching idea that everyone brought up was that civic engagement goes beyond registering students to vote on big election years. All the schools in attendance pledged to work on educating voters, increasing the push for all elections, not just presidential, and finding new, more effective ways of reaching students.

McKendree has worked to increase civic engagement in the past, especially for last year’s midterm elections. The All In Committee registered voters and hosted many events centered on increasing voter engagement. Part of the summit’s goal is to increase these efforts for other elections, giving all types of elections focused attention.

The summit also addressed methods of voter suppression, which are both legal and illegal, as well as intentional and unintentional. One of the most interesting parts of the summit was hearing the differences in voting from Illinois versus Missouri election officials. In Illinois, you can register to vote on the same day that you vote, but Missouri does not have the same process. It is also much harder to vote via absentee ballot in Missouri. Plus, any time you move in Missouri, even if it is just down the street, you are no longer registered to vote at all. You are not required to just change your address, but completely re-register to vote.

What does all this mean for McKendree students? We want students to be as engaged as possible, whether that is helping students register to vote here in Illinois or helping students get an absentee ballot for their home state or county. We also want students to ask questions when they are confused instead of just giving up on the process. Finally, we want students to understand that every single vote does matter, especially for local elections.

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Caden Owens, Katherine Gemmingen, Dr. Ann Collins, Chandler Henson, Shruti Desai (left to right)