IGNITE is a nonpartisan organization looking to empower women to be more involved in politics and level the scale of representation.
Women win elections at the same rate as men, but they run for office much less frequently, said TCU IGNITE president Lauren Gilman. “Women feel that they need to be asked and that they don’t have that potential themselves,” she said.
National founder of IGNITE Anne Moses wanted to encourage civic engagement early through chapters in high schools and universities.
Senior communication studies major Rachel Herrera said she knew she wanted to bring that enthusiasm to TCU during the peak of the 2016 presidential election.
“We didn’t have anything on campus that looked at issues from a nonpartisan standpoint,” Herrera said. “There was so much happening in that political climate, and to have resources to talk about those things on campus was really important to me.”
Since then, the TCU chapter of IGNITE has hosted speakers, debate parties, voter registration drives and “anything that can get women civically involved in their communities,” said Gilman.
Midterm elections are normally more difficult to promote because fewer students know what’s happening, said Herrera, who is also the Vice President of IGNITE. But this year voter registration was advertised more than in years past.
The two-week registration drive held on campus walkways steadily brought in more voters. IGNITE registered about 30 voters per day in the final week, said Gilman. In previous elections they would get about 15 citizens registered to vote per week.
“This may be the first time I’ve seen the college population so invested in the midterm election. It’s exciting that students are doing their civic duty,” Herrera said.
Gilman took an online course to help students get registered. “It pushes accountability on people when you’re like, ‘I have this piece of paper right here. I can sign you up right now, and I will turn it in. I will do the work,’” she said.
Herrera attributed the sudden popularity in the midterms to the national attention the Senate race between Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Beto O’Rourke has received.
O’Rourke was an invited speaker when he was beginning his campaign trail last year.
“Because we’re nonpartisan, we cannot endorse a candidate, but this election has certainly been fascinating to watch unfold,” Herrera said.
Moses said IGNITE encourages women in all aspects of civic engagement and not just running for office. IGNITE trains women to advocate for issues they care about, register to vote, and apply for boards and commissions to start advising on policies.
“Building civic engagement and political ambition is year-round work,” Moses said. “We have to do it during election years and we have to do it when there aren’t elections.”