As Election 2020 Nears, USM Students, Faculty and Staff are Registered, Engaged and Ready to Cast Their Votes

USMVotes Tops a Long List of Activities at Campuses Known for Their Civic-Engagement

Baltimore, Md. (Oct. 26, 2020) – With Election Day 2020 fast approaching, students, faculty and staff at University of System of Maryland (USM) institutions across the state are taking advantage of a wide-range of civic engagement programs to both involve themselves in the  campaign and assist state, county, and local communities in the electoral process.

Highlighting these efforts is USMVotes, a one-stop resource for information on every element of Election 2020—including information about civic engagement initiatives on USM campuses, voting locations, sample ballots, military voter registration, and opportunities to volunteer as a polling worker or election judge.  

The initiative, supported by the USM Office of Academic Affairs and the Board of Regents Work Group on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement, also provides links to such non-partisan voter education resources such as “MD Votes,” “Rock the Vote” and the League of Women Voters. 
To support and engage campus communities throughout the system, USM Votes distributes a weekly briefing newsletter to key audiences at each institution to provide the latest news on voting, engagement resources and upcoming deadlines.

“Central to the mission of U.S. higher education is preparing students for engaged citizenship. For the University System, that starts with urging students to vote. Because that’s the only way we can protect and improve our democracy, the only way can strengthen it,” said USM Chancellor Jay A. Perman. “We know the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been, and there’s powerful activism among our students. It’s inspiring to see them not only taking their civic responsibility seriously but really leading on the issues that are coming to define this moment in time.”

“USM's commitment to strengthening our democracy through civic education and civic engagement has never been stronger,” said Nancy Shapiro, USM Associate Vice Chancellor for Education and Outreach. “The upcoming election has galvanized the student leadership on every campus to make sure fellow students are registered and have a plan to vote. The message is, ‘Your vote is your voice.’ Last presidential election, the USM had an amazing 71 percent voter turnout—and we are aiming higher for 2020.”

Beyond USMVotes are a range of civic engagement activities at USM institutions that have been recognized for success in encouraging participation in the democratic process at both the national, state, and local level.

USM institutions have a remarkably strong presence in the Washington Monthly magazine’s “America’s Best Colleges for Student Voting” list—with four USM schools listed among the nation’s top 20 institutions: University of Maryland, College Park; Frostburg State University; Towson University, and the University of Baltimore.

Towson University (TU) also made the publication’s short list as just one of nine institutions with a student voter registration rate above 85%.  This work at TU is a testament to the efforts of that institution’s Office of Civic Engagement & Social Responsibility.

Among the factors the Monthly used to rate the USM institutions so highly is “how well they serve the country as a whole by recruiting and graduating non-wealthy students, encouraging student activism, and producing research and technologies that create high-paying jobs and address threats like climate change.”

At UMBC, the Center for Democracy and Civic Life is leading a “Cast Your Whole Vote” campaign, emphasizing that voting is crucial to democracy, just one of many important ways to shape the future of our communities and nation. Inspired by words and teaching of American philosopher Henry David Thoreau, ‘casting your whole vote’ means listening to people with different perspectives, reflecting on your values, learning about issues, and contributing your voice.

Under this initiative UMBC is hosting programs that include  “Change Makers Dinners,” which bring local leaders to campus to address issues like structural racism and voting rights during small group conversations, facilitated by students, with members of the campus community. UMBC’s “Dinner with Friends” program also engages students, faculty, staff, and alumni in student-facilitated small group conversations about issues affecting life at UMBC.  Campus staff are also preparing to support civil, supportive post-election-night conversations should the outcome be delayed.

UMBC won a gold seal award from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge for its 113 percent increase in student voter turnout in the 2018 election (relative to 2014). Eighty-five (85) percent of UMBC students were registered to vote in the 2016 national election, and 75 percent of those actually voted. UMBC’s overall turnout rate in 2016 was 125 percent of the national average for colleges and universities.

The University of Baltimore is the only campus in the nation to receive the gold seal award from the “ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge” for its voter participation rate of greater than 70 percent during the 2016 presidential election. By recognizing colleges and universities for their commitment to increasing student voting rates, the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge helps make democratic participation a core value on each campus.

Frostburg State University’s (FSU) Office of Civic Engagement fosters active citizenship by offering a range of activities and programs that develop personal and social responsibility within the members of the university community. For 20 years, this office has administered FSU’s ECHOSTARS program, a living-learning-serving AmeriCorps program for first-year students. Students receive an on-campus living stipend for the following year after performing at least 300 hours of service, with most students performing much more. For the 2020 election, FSU students receive updates on important voting deadlines and information, including details on the Bobcat Votes Shuttle, which will transport students to the local Mountain Ridge High School polling location throughout Election Day.

Two years ago, the University of Maryland, College Park campus established its Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement to uphold democracy and respond to what it sees as current threats to democratic norms. The center is committed to “an effort to better understand why this erosion has occurred, and to find solutions to the problem … leveraging our location near Washington, D.C., close to federal government offices, think tanks, and other organizations’ national headquarters.”

Mail-in voting began earlier this month in Maryland, and in-person voting options are available beginning with the launch of early voting October 26, through Election Day itself on Tuesday, November 3.

The USM comprises 12 institutions: Bowie State University; Coppin State University; Frostburg State University; Salisbury University; Towson University; the University of Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; the University of Maryland, College Park; the University of Maryland Eastern Shore; and the University of Maryland Global Campus. The USM also includes three regional centers—the Universities at Shady Grove, the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, and the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland—at which USM universities offer upper-division undergraduate and graduate courses.

Systemwide, student enrollment exceeds 172,000. The USM and its institutions compete successfully nearly $1.5 billion in external grants and contracts annually. USM institutions and programs are among the nation's best in quality and value according to several national rankings. To learn more about the University System of Maryland, visit


Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719