Storm the Dorms: Innovative Voter Engagement at UW – La Crosse

Ever thought to make voter registration competitive? Well, you should! In fall 2019, students at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse took voter registration to the next level. Alongside traditional methods of engaging students, voter engagement at La Crosse met students exactly where they are: their dorms.

CEEP Student Fellow Jack Lawlis envisioned the competition: “Attitudes towards voting are optimistic, though progress is slower. 2,000 people live in dorms on campus, which is the perfect place to engage students.” Over the course of a few weeks, nine residence halls competed against one another to register the most voters. Volunteers participated to register new voters, and give polling information. At the end of the cycle, the dorm with the most voters earned a plaque and bragging rights for the whole year, only to have to defend their title in 2020.

In 2019, the La Crosse Voter Team registered 517 voters, over 25% of the total students living in dorms on campus. The competition had Drake Hall finishing in the lead with 74 students registered, or 28% of Drake Hall’s population. Drake Hall will receive honors for the year, and they’ll have to stay competitive for next year’s voter registration.

Speaking of honors, La Crosse earned a campus-wide award from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. ALL IN awarded the University a Gold Seal for 2018 midterm election voter participation between 40 – 49%. The results indicate students, educators, and student life professionals at UW La Crosse remain committed to continued civic engagement on campus.

When asked to reflect on his experience, Jack Lawlis speaks of engaging students in one-on-one dialogue about voting and the importance of being a student voter. In his opinion, “simply, peer to peer engagement works”. Jack holds a strong sense of pride in his work and the community he has built as a CEEP Fellow. “Civics are the backbone of America – I became a CEEP Fellow because I wanted to facilitate the process.”


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