UW-La Crosse receives gold seal for excellence in student voter engagement

LA CROSSE, Wi. (WEAU)-- Last week, UW-La Crosse received a gold seal for excellence in student voter engagement.

A total of 4,796 UWL students voted in the 2018 midterm, which is about 47% of the student body.

Those numbers were an increase from the 2014 midterm where 28 percent of UWL students voted.

"It's important to register, to educate, and to vote," said senior UWL student Jack Lawlis. "It's important because this is just something that's the backbone--the backbone of democracy, America. This is how people have their voice heard."

Lawlis, a UWL senior, has been taking the time to register students this semester. Twice a week, he goes to different residence halls and spends time getting students prepared for the spring election.

"Students are able to come right out of their dorm into the hall, into the lobby of their residence hall and register to vote. It just makes it so much easier," Lawlis said.

So far, he says around 350 students have registered this fall and expects to have about 500 when he finishes going to nine residence halls.

For UWL, they say it's important their students aren't just voting, but that they're informed voters.

"So many people, I think, look and they say 'oh I dont know anything about this election, so i'm not going to vote,'" said Larry Ringgenberg, UWL director of university centers. "Well, I think we've tried to make it so the information is available to students and so they should be informed."

"[Last year] I distributed materials that kind of highlighted, in a non-partisan way, the candidates for each side of the midterms," Lawlis said.

The senior says he hopes the time spent each week preparing students leads to a bigger change.

"Ultimately, my goal is just to make the world a better place," Lawlis said. "I know that's kind of cliche, but I think each person has the capacity to do that. If we recognize the intrinsic worth of the individual, you'll see their opinion matters."

Lawlis has turned registering to vote into a competition among the residence halls.

Each hall is now trying to get the highest percentage of students registered for the spring.