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UNG leading young voter registration efforts

Students with the American Democracy Project hand out voting information and copies of the U.S. Constitution. The group has partnered with TurboVote to boost civic engagement among college students.

Less than two years after partnering with TurboVote, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that facilitates voter registration, the University of North Georgia (UNG) is among the institutions leading national efforts to increase civic engagement among college students.

One of the objectives of TurboVote, Bricker said, is to get students engaged in every election; surveys show that being away from home keeps many college students from voting.

"At UNG, we promote leadership and engagement, so we stand behind participation in the political process and do everything we can to encourage that. Voting is the most essential thing to being civically engaged; if you don't vote, typically you're not engaged," Dr. Renee Bricker, an assistant professor of history at UNG, said. "Students are affected by local politics, at least while they're here, and they should be able to vote where they live. That requires re-registering in some cases, and TurboVote helps them do that."

Bricker has been featured in webinars about TurboVote hosted by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), a national association of some 420 public colleges, universities and systems. In April, AASCU and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA), two of the nation's leading higher education associations, teamed up with TurboVote to encourage 100 more schools to join the voter registration initiative.

Bricker also is a national co-chair of AASCU's e-Citizenship, an initiative to use technology and social media to increase civic engagement.

In 2012, UNG's American Democracy Project committee partnered with the university's Political Science Student Association to make UNG the first – and currently the only – school in Georgia to join TurboVote. Ivy League schools like Harvard and Columbia and Division I schools like Arizona State, Florida, Kentucky, and Michigan State are among the 80 other schools across the nation who have joined TurboVote.

For the 2012 federal election, 80 percent of the 6,304 students on UNG's Dahlonega Campus were registered and 54 percent of the student body voted, according to figures from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). UNG's voting rate was higher than the 48 percent average among peer institutions across the nation.

Using the specific North Georgia link, students can register to vote via TurboVote, answering a few simple questions. TurboVote can be accessed via any device with an Internet connection. Users receive a hard copy of their completed registration form in the mail, already stamped and addressed to their home state's election office. To complete registration, students just have to sign the form and drop it in the mail.

TurboVote's platform helps colleges and universities meet federal mandates that require institutions provide students with voter registration information, but TurboVote isn't just for students; anyone can sign up. In addition to easing the registration process, TurboVote users can request absentee ballots directly from their state's election office and get reminders about upcoming local, state and national elections for the community where they are registered to vote.

The deadline to register to vote in Georgia's May 20 primary has passed, but those already registered to vote can sign up for TurboVote to request absentee ballots or election reminders. The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 4 general election is Oct. 6.

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