Baldwin Wallace Action Plan 2020 encourages students to vote

In the Fall semester of 2019, the David & Frances Brain Center for Community Engagement  collaborated with Jackets Engaged and #BWVOTES to develop an Action Plan 2020 to promote student voting.

The focus of the action plan, as stated on the BW website, is to “increase voter turnout to 60% for the 2020 Presidential Election, increase voter registration and turnout for students who turn out at lower rates, and provide resources to ensure students develop election information literacy.” (Action Plan: )

The action plan was developed by Julie Robinson, associate director of the community engagement, Danielle Lykins, the Conservatory Admissions office manager, and Dr. Zarina Melik Stepanova, a faculty member of the Conservatory.

“The plan hasn’t been like a roadmap, necessarily,” said Robinson. Many things have had to deviate from the original action plan due to COVID-19. “We were able to do some voter registration tabling, but there was no indoor tabling and there was a process that the team needed to go through with the event review committee.”

Even with COVID-19 setbacks, the Jacket’s Engaged student organization was able to give several presentations to First Year Experience courses and the @bwbraincenter Instagram account has continued to grow.

“Our folks have been posting at least a couple times a week and they’ve more than doubled their followers on Instagram since August, which I think is a good sign,” said Robinson.

Dr. Thomas Sutton, director of the Community Research Institute and a coalition member of the action plan, agreed that the online presence has increased.

“We weren’t able to get anyone to be active,” said Sutton. “But Action 2020 has helped increase [voting] awareness.”

Robinson said that historically, young people are less inclined to vote, but “there’s been a huge push over the last five years on our campus and on other campuses to increase the number of students that vote. We’re seeing rises in the numbers, so the [action plan] is one of many efforts to boost civic participation of college students.”

Brynn Sheptak, a junior sustainability and sociology double major at BW, noticed these efforts to increase civic engagement and participation.

“I know they helped register people to vote,” said Sheptak. “And I think BW did a good job of getting people aware and helping them to vote.”

Sheptak also said that she thinks young people might have more motivation to vote than older generations.

“I think it’s important because [young people] will soon be the majority, if we’re not already. We have to live with these decisions and we should be able to decide our own future. It’s important to get what we want rather than what older generations think we should have.”

While Sheptak said that she was relatively happy with the results of the election, she hopes BW works to prevent any backlash by “encouraging people to be peaceful and promote unity.”

Though Sheptak was satisfied, Maximilian Sykora, BW junior and political sciences major, said that he thinks the election is “too early to call.”

“I don’t think it’s actually done,” said Sykora. “I’m sure a recount will happen, but I can’t make any predictions [about the results].”

Despite the disagreement on whether the election is over or not, both Sheptak and Sykora agree that the election has caused a lot of division and created more tensions between political parties.

“I hope people understand there’s plenty of perspectives out there and it’s okay to be wrong,” said Sykora.

In preparation for the election, BW collaborated with the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) to gauge student voting behaviors for the 2020 election. These results will show the number of BW student voters and will help to determine if the action plan met its goal of increasing voter participation.

“We won’t get the NSLVE results until next year,” said Robinson. “It takes a while for the state to get all of the election data compiled. I can’t wait for the results.”