'Cardinals Vote!' looks to create change across campus and Indiana

Associate Professor of Education Studies Dr. David Roof (left) and Director of Student Life Abby Haworth (right) pose for a photo Feb. 7 at Beneficence. Roof and Haworth created “Cardinal Vote!” to address the lack of understanding surrounding civic engagement on campus. Mya Cataline, DN
Associate Professor of Education Studies Dr. David Roof (left) and Director of Student Life Abby Haworth (right) pose for a photo Feb. 7 at Beneficence. Roof and Haworth created “Cardinal Vote!” to address the lack of understanding surrounding civic engagement on campus. Mya Cataline, DN

With the 2024 presidential election approaching, Associate Professor of Educational Studies David Roof and Director of Student Life Abby Haworth wanted to address the lack of understanding surrounding civic engagement on campus. 

This desire led them to create the ‘'Cardinals Vote!'’ initiative.

Their creation looks to educate, inform and cultivate civic responsibility to students on-campus and around east-central Indiana. Additionally, they’re looking to address the lack of understanding surrounding democratic principles as well.

“I think over the last few years here in the United States, that concern [democratic principles] shifted a bit back due to domestic, and of course, pandemic things,” Roof said.

The initiative also holds the goal of increasing voter turnout and bringing awareness to how important democracy is. By the end of the year, Ball State aims to exceed the Indiana 18-24-year-old voting rate by 50 percent and surpass the campus voter turnout rate from 2020.

Despite positive voter trends in 18-24-year-olds at Ball State, Roof said the rest of Indiana has yet to catch up to the university. 

According to the 2023 Indiana Civic Health Index, Indiana's midterm voter turnout from 2022 ranks 50th overall in the nation. This is a drop from 43rd in 2018.

To achieve all the initiative wants to accomplish, and to improve voter turnout rates, Roof recognized they needed additional help, especially with funding. Along with this, he recognized 'Cardinals Vote!' needed to be larger than just Ball State.

Roof oversees the Center for Economic and Civic Learning, which houses the Democracy Fellows, a Ball State organization designed to help create a new generation of leaders. The ability to utilize the Fellows led him to encourage them to get involved. 

“I am just trying to be a facilitator and help move things along,” Roof said. “It's unfolding, and some of it's a bit unknown… but students get interested and want to lead parts of it.”

Second-year political science major and pre-law student Shaina Miller is a member of the 2024 Democracy Fellow team and is participating in Roof’s initiative. 

She said she loves her role of helping other students learn more about voting and the importance of democracy. 

“Everyone has an opinion, but many young people are unlikely to express those opinions in the polls,” Miller said via email. “By encouraging students to vote, I feel that we are helping create a state that represents the opinions of a growing and changing population.”

The Fellows are offering to visit classrooms to provide students with a short information session on voting, preparing them for the upcoming election. 

They’re also currently hosting a button design contest for the initiative. Within this, they’re hoping to encourage students to be creative and inspire them to participate in democracy. In the future, they’re looking to expand upon their work and participate in more events.

Miller said creating social change on campus through the Democracy Fellows and 'Cardinals Vote!' will have a larger impact on the community.

“I have come to understand that universities act as laboratories of ideas and social changes that occur on a campus level have impacts on larger communities,” Miller said via email. “Creating social change on campus is a part of how I want to impact our world.”

With help from the Fellows, Roof still held a desire to reach more students with the initiative. He began to look at the NCAA and how the national collegiate athletics organization promotes civic engagement among its student-athletes. With this in mind, he began to take steps toward utilizing the potential of the Mid-American Conference (MAC).
Roof reached out to Lindsey Blom, associate athletic director for championship performance and professor of sport and exercise psychology at Ball State. After learning about the initiative and its goals, Blom was immediately on board.

“I was trying to figure out, across the nation, what we can do to support [student athletes] and younger adults to be involved in civic duties and responsibilities and understanding,” Blom said.

Since joining the initiative, Blom helped create and maintain a partnership between Ball State athletics and the MAC. She plans to use her connections across the conference to multiply the effect of 'Cardinals Vote!', ensuring it extends beyond Ball State. 

Blom said being able to use connections in the MAC to enhance voter turnout in the region will help increase the number of people impacted by the campaign.

“We realized just getting people registered to vote doesn't necessarily give them the education or award them the intrinsic motivation to stay engaged beyond some recommendation,” Blom said.

In the process of working with the MAC, Roof discovered and applied for a grant from the Community Engaged Alliance (CEA). 

The CEA has been supporting Indiana higher education institutions since the early ’ 90s, hoping to improve these institutions' relationships with local communities. In doing so, they’ve remained the only organization in Indiana that works with all institutional levels.

Soon after applying for the grant, Ball State announced Jan. 2 that the initiative was selected to be awarded the money. 

“I think the grant’s really important,” Roof said. “It'll give us leverage. There's a national data set for youth voting and colleges, so we'll be able to make better use of that data and compare that.”

Alongside a newfound ability to produce more research, the grant will also allow for the initiative to create more advertisements. 

This will come in the form of traditional advertising, including fundraising events, merchandise and more, helping to build off of foundational support for the initiative. 

“It is the role of Student Life to help students understand their opportunity to be civically engaged,” Haworth said via email. “Grants like the one we received from the Community Engaged Alliance help us best serve the Ball State students and community. We are thankful for organizations that are driven to help the betterment of institutions.”

Ball State has traditionally participated in National Voter Registration Day and National Voter Education Week and looks to again later this year. 'Cardinals Vote!' currently has plans to hold workshops through the Democracy Fellows along with setting up tables across campus with more information and opportunities for students to learn why voting matters.

Those looking to get involved or learn more about the initiative can utilize the 'Cardinals Vote!' website or contact the Center for Economic and Civic Learning at cecl@bsu.edu. Those with ideas for the initiative can reach out to Roof at djroof@bsu.edu.

Contact Trinity Rea via email at trinity.rea@bsu.edu or on X @thetrinityrea .


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