Civic Engagement at ACC

Every vote counts


Image via Andrea Mason

Voter deposits ballot in drop box at Arapahoe Community College. Photo taken on Oct. 26, 2022.

Going to college is not just about finding where in the world someone’s place may be. It can be about discovering someone’s unknown inner voice and why it counts in a society ruled by democracy. At Arapahoe Community College (ACC), voting is something that is taken seriously in approach when engaging the student body. This is something the school has been recognized for in the past on more than one occasion.

In 2016, ACC joined a program called the ALL IN Challenge. On the website of the ALL IN Challenge, they state the purpose of this idea is to “foster civic culture and institutionalize democratic engagement activities and programs at colleges and universities, making them a defining feature of campus life.” All IN Challenge also has a goal of wanting to bridge voting gaps when it comes to age and race of current and potential voters. Since its joining year, ACC has been awarded status of Silver in 2016 with a 65.5% voting rate, in 2018 for a 53.5% voting rate and Gold in 2020 for a 75.6% voting rate in excellence for Student Voter Engagement.

According to the Colorado Secretary of State, the Colorado Campus Voting Challenge states the 2020 award winners and ACC is listed three different times for awards even up against four-year institutions. The awards ACC was recognized for were Highest Voter Registration, Highest Voter Turnout and Best Campus Democratic Engagement Action Plan.

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So, what is ACC doing to get students engaged in the voting process? During a phone interview with Dr. Lisa Matye Edwards, vice president of student affairs, she stated one thing they try to relay to the faculty and then to the students is “it’s not about a particular issue or a particular candidate. It’s about being engaged. I think that message really resonated.”

ACC is also a member of the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement or (NSLVE). This is a program that helps learning institutions like ACC learn about the voting habits of their student body. Data is collected and then broken down into categories like age, gender, ethnicity, and field of study. Turns out Legal Professions and Studies and Unknown are the highest at 75% and 76%.

Whether in person, online, voted early or unknown are categories used to track voting methods. It then calculates the percentages of each category compared to the total number of enrolled students who voted. Those numbers are tracked for every election for comparison to see if there are any increases, decreases or no changes among the different areas.

All the data tracked for the past six years, confirms the action plans put in place by the faculty and department of student affairs is working. ACC not only has won awards but has always tracked above the national average for participation from the very beginning.  The data continues to show a steady increase in all categories except for one, how the student participated in voting, whether in person, online and more. The national average for institutions in 2014 was 18.8 percent while ACC was 38.8%, in 2018 it was 39.1 percent while ACC was 53.4% and in 2020 was 66 percent and ACC was 75.6%.

With the pandemic and society having to change everyday life the past few years, ACC was no different. As a community they embraced change and adapted their voting practices. Edwards stated, “the staff and students were really creative in making it safe, to be registered to vote, to be engaged in voting.” She touched on how tents were set up outside according to all the COVID protocols to ensure engagement could happen among the community.

No matter the circumstances, civic engagement is a priority at Arapahoe Community College. Every student and faculty member is encouraged to talk about topics and to have conversations of why voting matters. The desired outcome in the end is the same for everyone. Edwards said “students see it played out in the classroom, and know it makes a difference.”

The 2022 Midterms will be held on Tuesday Nov. 8. While it is too late to mail in ballots, they can still be dropped off in person. In-person voting is open until 7 p.m. Tuesday, all voters will need to ensure they bring valid identification. If further information is needed, voters are encouraged to visit the Colorado Secretary of State website.


ACC’s voting rates are higher than the national average. Data used from 2020 NSLVE-Campus Report. (Image via Nicole Morton)
ACC’s voting methods have increased over time. Data used from 2020 NSLVE-Campus Report. (Image via Nicole Morton )