Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon visited Winona State University on Wednesday to award the campus for winning, for the second time in a row, the Minnesota College Ballot Bowl.
The Ballot Bowl was created to help gather more people to register to vote, especially those in college.
Students compete to have the most students register, along with the largest percentage of students registered on their campus. The competition also enables people to learn more about how and where to vote.
The competition takes place each election year.
There are three categories involved in the Ballot Bowl: Minnesota State Universities, private colleges and University of Minnesota campuses.
The competition began in 2016, and it was designed and created by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office. The Ballot Bowl addressed the need for more people in the state to register and vote, as Simon has the goal of making Minnesota the No. 1 state in the nation for voting participation.
The goal of Simon and his office was to “really dig into what we could do that was really new and fresh and unique” when attempting to register more young voters. They developed the idea based on looking at what other states in the country had done competitively between colleges.
The first year of this competition impressed Simon, with the response being “far beyond what we could have predicted.” Sixty-eight eligible institutions participated, with that number having grown in 2018.
Simon said, “In our experience, certainly based on Winona State, (the Ballot Bowl) really energizes campuses.”
Kara Lindaman, a professor of political science and public administration at WSU, credits the collaboration and cooperativeness of the volunteers, faculty, staff and students for the win.
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She said that the win also can be credited to the culture of WSU.
“The best thing about Winona State University is student and civic engagement is in our blood.”
WSU Student Senate President Ben Ellgen reflected on his time trying to help people register to vote. “It was a lot of work,” he said.
Ellgen said, before accepting the trophy from Simon, that one of his favorite moments during the competition was sharing rides with people so more students could go to polling places. He recalled the nervous excitement that the new voters were experiencing.
He noted that students participating in the competition tabled, partnered with various departments on campus, and helped spread education and awareness about aspects of voting.
Ellgen said that having students register to vote is “advantageous for students. It’s advantageous for the community and for the state.”
WSU President Scott Olson said what he thinks was beneficial for the campus and that will be in the future, “is the ability of students really doing old-fashioned face-to-face registration drives. Where they are where the students are.”
WSU staff and students are already thinking about a possible 2020 win.
“The pressure is enormous now,” Simon said about the school keeping their champion status for another year.
He noted the importance of this upcoming election and the need for people to vote in 2020. “No matter where your political sympathies lay, it’s going to be a consequential, very important, very significant election.”
For more information about the Ballot Bowl, visit www.sos.state.mn.us.