September/October 2022Vol. XXXV No. 1

Encourage Your Students to Vote

Dear Fellow Faculty,

In 1998, the Higher Education Act was amended to require universities to make a good faith effort to encourage student voter registration. At MIT, 72% of eligible MIT students voted in the 2020 election. This is 5% higher than the national average, but we can do better. We write to urge all faculty members to join in MIT’s ongoing non-partisan efforts to increase voter participation among our students.

Many avenues exist for faculty to promote voter participation and signal the importance of democratic engagement. We can:

  1. Simply ask students if they have registered to vote and have a plan to vote (directing them to if they have not);
  2. Create flexibility in our course curriculum on Election Day November 8 and record lectures that day (indicating these in advance in our syllabi);
  3. Attend voter participation events on campus; 
  4. Add a message on our email signature emphasizing the importance of voter participation;
  5. Use a Zoom background image (available through the PKG center or you can create your own) emphasizing the importance of voter registration;
  6. Reach out to work with the student group MITvote or the MIT working group for the wider ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge initiative

All students, regardless of eligibility to vote, can help with voter assistance hotlines, encouraging peers to register, driving people to the polls, participating in voter protection teams, combating disinformation, and engaging with others in policy discussions about issues that matter to them, all of which help increase civic engagement.

MIT’s ALL IN working group is developing several initiatives to increase student civic engagement, including integrating voter registration into course registration (as many universities have already done), and providing support to students working with faculty leadership to adopt a policy of having no classes on Election Day. Your involvement can help ensure that these initiatives are in place for 2024.

Some may lament that voting in Massachusetts is unlikely to affect national politics. But students’ voting locale can be based on their permanent address if they so choose. And many of our students are affected by local politics, where even students voting in Massachusetts can have an impact. Our students also have friends all over the country that they may be able to influence, including those voting in swing states. Furthermore, voting is habit-forming: young voters usually continue to vote in subsequent elections, and our students today will be dispersed all over the country in just a few years. 

To learn more and get involved, please contact Jill Bassett (, Nancy Kanwisher (, or Roger Levy (

Nancy Kanwisher

Roger Levy

Daron Acemoğlu

Edmund Bertschinger

Marah Gubar

Tom Levenson

Kieran Setiya

Rebecca Saxe

David Autor