Duncan Mackenzie (left), a first-year in exploration, registers to vote in front of Thompson Library Tuesday afternoon with assistance from Alyssa Johnson from Student Life (center) and Mikori Huma, a first-year in international studies, and OSU Votes member. Matt Dorsey | Engagement Editor

Ohio State has joined its Big Ten colleagues in a contest to see which university can send the highest percentage of its students to the voting booth.

The Big Ten Voting Challenge officially began Sept. 17 and will run through the Nov. 6, 2018 midterm election. Two trophies will be awarded: one for the university that turns out the highest percentage of its student body to the 2018 election, and another to the university with the largest percentage increase in student voters since the 2014 midterm election.

Ohio State kicked off the challenge Tuesday — National Voter Registration Day — with voter registration drives at The Oval and the Ohio Union, in the afternoon and evening, respectively.

Over the past couple of weeks all 14 Big Ten university presidents have been talking about the importance of teaching students the values related to civic engagement and how voting is one of the most important and best ways for students to commit to those values of civic engagement,” said Matt Van Jura, assistant director of leadership programs for Ohio State’s Office of Student Life.

Bill Darling of Westerville tends to Max (left) and Lacy of Therapy Dogs International. OSU Votes asked for the dogs to be present for its voter registration drive in front of Thompson Library Tuesday afternoon. Credit: Matt Dorsey | Engagement Editor

The focus on a midterm election is due to its lower turnout than presidential elections, according to a Sept. 17 letter to students signed by all 14 university presidents.

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel initiated the contest, Van Jura said.

“He put out the initial feelers to his presidential colleagues and then they all agreed,” he said. “So we have unanimous participation.”

The Institute for Democracy and Higher Education, a research center from Tufts University, will be compiling voter data from the boards of election in which each Big Ten university is located. The data will then be compared to enrollment information provided by each school, said Alyssa Johnson, coordinator of service and outreach for the Office of Student Life.

It will take about six months from the time of the 2018 election for the winning universities to be announced, Van Jura said, adding that the Big Ten hopes to announce winners before students leave for the summer in 2019.

The voting registration drive at The Oval was staffed by volunteers from OSU Votes, a nonpartisan student-led organization within Student Life that seeks to promote voting participation among Ohio State students.

Mikori Huma, a first-year in international studies, worked the registration table Tuesday afternoon, and said he was glad to see the Big Ten using its competitive spirit to get people voting.

“What better way to get more of our students engaged in civic involvement?” he said.