Missouri State University working to get more ‘Paws to the Polls’

KOLR10 Daybreak

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Missouri State University (MSU) is leading a new campaign to get more “Paws to the Polls” in 2022. Dr. Suzanne Walker-Pacheco, says she hopes the initiative will increase student voter turnout, literacy and education.

“A lot of students are registered to vote, but they don’t necessarily go and vote,” Dr. Walker-Pacheco said.

MSU is part of a Tufts University study. The study says in 2018, MSU had a student voter registration rate of 81 percent. Only 44 percent voted.

Dr. Walker-Pacheco says the low voter turnout may be able to be credited to students being registered to vote in a different state.

“If I asked in classes, for example, ‘How many of you are registered to vote?’ The vast majority will raise their hands,” Dr. Walker-Pacheco said. “Then I say, ‘How many are registered to vote here in Greene County? Most of the hands go down.”

Emily Fessler, a co-leader of the “Paws to the Polls,” says this is part of the reason why MSU created the campaign.

“We are not for one party or another party,” Fessler said. “We’re just here to educate students on how to identify what sources of information are biased, what sources of information aren’t and then actually engage them civically. A lot of college-aged students don’t realize the impact that they can have and that their voice truly does matter.”

The campaign holds many events throughout the school year. Last fall, most of the Bears’ football team registered to vote.

“It’s super important for college students to be aware of what’s going on,” Fessler said. “It’s also important for them to then be able to vocalize what they want their future to look like.”

Looking ahead is what inspired Ava Taylor, another co-leader, to help lead the campaign.

“It’s so important for [college students] to start thinking about it now,” Taylor said. “These things they vote on are going to impact them, the years to come, their families and the future as well. You can have a really big impact on your community.”

MSU’s voter turnout has improved since the campaign began. On Election Day in 2020, 73 percent of the 85 percent who registered to vote on campus casted their ballot.

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