2020 is a presidential election year. On November 3rd, U.S. voters will determine who will be president for the next four years. On the same day, hundreds of other elections will select candidates at the state and local level. This year, the University of Michigan will be hosting a debate between the presidential candidates on October 15 at the Crisler Center. While international students, like other non-U.S. citizens, cannot vote in U.S. elections, you can participate in other ways.

You can talk to members of the campus community who are eligible to vote and learn about issues that affect higher education in general and international students in particular, as well as international relations. Many campus conversations will touch on the election this year, so learning about the issues, the candidates, and the outcomes offers you an opportunity to connect with others on campus and deepen your understanding of U.S. culture and politics. 

The University of Michigan International Center and English Language Institute have a few ideas  for ways that international students can get engaged in this electoral season:

1. Educate Yourself: Learn about the U.S. election systems and why voting is a fundamental part of the U.S. democracy. In a presidential election year, understand the difference between the primaries, in which the major political parties select their candidates,  and the general election, which happens every four years on the first Tuesday in November.

2. Be Curious: Ask your American classmates and friends about their views on the candidates who they find most appealing and the issues that they find most important.

3. Attend an Event: Keep an eye out for debate and election result watching parties hosted by campus organizations on the University Calendar. These events could include the Primary Elections in Michigan (March 10), the Democratic Convention (July 13-16), the Republican Convention (August 24-27), and the  Presidential Election (November 3).

4. Vet Your Sources: Seek legitimate, non-partisan news sources. Be sure that you are looking at the factual news- not just opinions or social media posts.  

5. Think Local:  Get to know the candidates in Michigan and the ballot issues at the candidate websites and general sites including these:

6. Remind Your Friends to Vote: This election is too important for those who can vote to stay at home. College students have busy schedules, so it is important that they make a plan to vote. Remind your friends to schedule a time to vote!

7. Familiarize Yourself with Campus-based Initiatives: Check out U-M’s  Ginsberg Center’s website for more information on campus-based voting efforts including the Big Ten Voting Challenge.

8. Run for Campus Office: There are plenty of elected positions within student organizations, including U-M’s Central Student Government and Rackham Student Government, where you can influence the activities, policies, and climate at the University.  Run for office – and vote in student elections!  

9. Keep Things in Perspective: If you don’t understand something, that’s OK. It takes time to fully understand the history, current events, and politics of another country.  What’s important is deepening your understanding of life in the U.S. and connecting with other students, faculty, and staff around issues that are important to them -- and to you!