The Premier of Democracy Shark Tank

College students across Minnesota gathered to pitch their ideas on how to best engage college students to vote in the upcoming election. Nationally, fewer than one in five college students voted in the last mid-term election. With that problem in mind, students were challenged to find innovative ways to make voting fun and engaging to their peers.

The Northeast Higher Education District (NHED) came up with some really great ideas. One idea was the Civic Showdown Challenge, a scavenger hunt to get students learning more about voting, the process, and promoting lifelong civic education and engagement. Some of the items students could complete were taking a picture with a representative, going online to find more information about candidates, registering to vote, volunteering either with student senate or a candidate, and door knocking with a local representative. All of these items will help foster NHED’s social media campaign “I care about…” which will be used to create unique posters to hang around campus. These posters will then show people that they can vote about issues and show them the issues their fellow students care about.

Century College developed the idea of the Voter Care Kit. This kit would contain information on how to vote, how to register to vote, how to find their list of candidates, and voter maps, it would also contain a voter’s guide to voting listing available assistance and frequently asked voting questions.

The Competition

All attendees participated in an experiential learning simulation that walked them through a process to develop a campus-based action plan. The game was developed by TurboVote and the Maryland Institute for College of Art to break down the planning process into a fun engaging process. Participants examined how their institution’s historical voting rates, campus resources and administrations commitment to voting would influence their voting participation.

Campus based teams then identified tactics that they must do, should do and hope to do as a way to prioritize their plans based on time and financial resources. Then they put that information on a timeline of what needs to be done during welcome week, mid-semester and Election Day.

At the end of the day, each team had five minutes to pitch their plan to a panel of three sharks. The sharks then scored each team on a set of criteria.


1st Place - Northeast Higher Education District - $2,500
2nd Place - Central Lakes College - $2,000
3rd Place - Anoka-Ramsey Community College-Coon Rapids - $1,500
Runner-up - Anoka Technical College - $1,000
Runner-up - Century College - $1,000
Runner-up - Rochester Community and Technical College - $1,000

A Collaboration

This event was collaboration between many state and national partners who have a commitment to civic learning and participation that include the Minnesota State system office of Academic Affairs and Minnesota Campus Compact. This event would not have been possible without the generous financial support from the Student Learn Student Vote coalition.