True Blue Voter
Middle Tennessee State University is a community committed to learning, growth, and service. We hold these values dear, and there’s a simple phrase that conveys them: “I am True Blue.” New students at convocation take the True Blue Pledge. It underscores our core values of:
- Honesty and integrity;
- Respect for diversity;
- Engagement in the community; and
- Commitment to reason, not violence.
These words express not only the ideals the University wishes to share with its students but also our devotion to student success.
This True Blue Voter initiative reinforces our Engagement in the Community core value. Active involvement and personal investment in the classroom and throughout the community are hallmarks of an engaged citizen, as is active citizenry through participation in the electoral process. Engaged citizens during college are more likely to carry their civic mindedness forward as they move into their careers and future home communities, becoming engaged citizens for the rest of their lives. True Blue Voter supports MTSU’s emphasis on the three pillars of higher education: college completion, career preparation, and citizenship.
The True Blue Voter initiative engages students in active civic participation and civic leadership through voting.
- Addresses concerns regarding the current voting practices of MTSU students. Research indicates that 44.5% of our students voted in 2016, up from 44.0% in 2012 but below the 2016 national average of 50.4%; 72.3% of our students were registered in 2016, down from 74.5% in 2012; 61.7% of our registered students actually voted in 2016, up from 59.1% in 2012; and 58% of students voted during Early Voting. (source: NSLVE)
- Builds on the successes of MTSU’s American Democracy Project (ADP), including its strong voter registration efforts. The MTSU ADP, directed by Dr. Mary Evins under the auspices of the Office of the University Provost, has participated in the national ADP initiative since its founding in 2003. It is among 250 campuses nationwide that seek to advance, deepen, and support the civic learning and engagement of university students.
- Uses election procedures expertise provided by the Rutherford County Election Commission Administrator on voter registration and early voter techniques to inform MTSU students about voting procedures.
Voting is a core activity of citizenship, and MTSU’s commitment to implement True Blue Voter underscores our University’s strong commitment to student civic engagement as a building block for Engagement in the Community, both in our campus community and in our students’ wider civic communities.
Partnership with Rutherford County
The True Blue Voter Enhancement plan will augment and enhance the already successful American Democracy Project by utilizing new student registration and early voting techniques researched by the Office of the Rutherford County Election Commission Administrator.
Voter Registration is already a pillar of the MTSU American Democracy Project. However, key to this enhancement will be a concerted push to register students in their home counties, rather than limiting them to Rutherford alone. We feel this will eliminate a primary objection that is often encountered during localized registration efforts: Many students want to register in elections where they are from, rather than where they are attending classes.
Absentee voting is a voting method that involves voting on a day earlier than the actual election day. Tennessee has two forms of absentee voting:
- Absentee in person, which is better known as early voting;
- And absentee by mail, which is commonly called by-mail voting.
Our enhancement will underscore the advantage of by-mail voting. State law says this is possible for those who will be outside the county of registration during the early voting period and all day on election day. The law specifically for those students who are enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited college or university outside the county of registration (spouses of said students are also eligible).
Through coordinated exposure and participation in CUSTOMS, the series of freshman and new-student orientation sessions, representatives of the Rutherford County Election Commission, assisted by University volunteers will assist incoming students in online voter registration. Other kiosks will be established during the first two weeks of classes, as part of the American Democracy Projects efforts before Constitution Day (usually on or about Sept. 17).
Appropriate marketing materials and computer resources will be deployed to allow for speedy and proper registration of incoming students to voter rolls – in their home counties, or in Rutherford County. We will tie these efforts to our True Blue community values, with special emphasis on Engagement in the Community.
Students must have a Tennessee driver's license or Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security ID in order to submit this application online. If they do not have a Tennessee driver's license or Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security ID, they will be aided to print the voter registration form and submit by mail. TN requirements to vote:
- An online submitted application for voter registration must be submitted at least 30 days before an election.
Students already registered to vote will be guided at CUSTOMS and other kiosks in submitting a written request containing the information below to their local county election commission office. This must be done by the seventh day before Election Day.
Students must request an application for by-mail ballot no earlier than 90 days before the election and no later than seven days before the election. To be processed for the next election, the application must be received by the election commission no later than seven days before the election.
In order to be counted, the home county election commission of the student voter must receive the ballot by mail no later than the close of polls on election day. Once the election commission issues an absentee by-mail ballot to a voter, the student voter can only vote by mail.