Voter turnout likely breaks into the consciousness of most Americans only on election days, if then. But for Mike Burns ’05, it’s top of mind every day. 

As the national director of the Fair Election Center’s Campus Vote Project since 2014, Burns has devoted his career to increasing and supporting the participation of college students in the democratic process—especially getting them to register to vote and educating them on deadlines and processes for casting their ballot. He calls it “building a democracy with on-ramps for young voters that welcomes them into our political process.”

In September, Burns, who earned a political science degree at Longwood, and other Campus Vote Project representatives were on campus to celebrate National Voter Registration Day. In addition to helping with a voter registration drive, Burns spoke to a political science class and observed a focus group on student voting.

Earlier this year, Longwood was designated a Voter Friendly Campus, an initiative started by Campus Vote Project ahead of the 2016 elections. “The designation was awarded to Longwood for its commitment to engaging the campus community in our democracy, including developing a plan across voter registration, education, turnout and advocacy,” said Burns.

He says his work with the Campus Vote Project is a natural outgrowth of both his curricular and extracurricular activities at Longwood, as well as the law degree he earned in 2013 from Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

“I developed my own sense of what I believe a healthy and inclusive democracy entails in my political science studies at Longwood,” he said. Opportunities outside the classroom to take on leadership roles with several student organizations were also key. “Those experiences showed me the value of investing in your community and stepping up when something needs to get done for that community,” Burns said.

That’s more important now than ever, he said, and so is the work he’s doing with Campus Vote Project.

“We are at a perilous time for democracy both in the United States and around the world. Meeting students who are willing to raise their voices and join the movement, to watch them grow as leaders and advocates, and see many of them join our staff or take roles with partner organizations in the field is tremendously rewarding.”

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