Last fall, Pacific Lutheran University students were motivated to help fellow students register to vote — and their efforts to that end earned them a visit from Gov. Jay Inslee.

Riley Dolan accepts a certificate from Gov. Jay Inslee on behalf of Pacific Lutheran University for winning the Governor’s Student Voter Registration Challenge.

Riley Dolan accepts a certificate from Gov. Jay Inslee on behalf of Pacific Lutheran University for winning the Governor’s Student Voter Registration Challenge. Photo by Jeff Burlingame

PLU won the statewide Governor’s Student Voter Registration Challenge in its category. The competition, which the governor’s office launched in partnership with Secretary of State Kim Wyman, challenged schools to register as many eligible students as possible before last year’s general election.

To recognize the university’s victory, the PLU flag was flown in front of the capitol building; leaders of “Lute Vote” — the student organization that led the drive to register student voters — were invited to lunch with Inslee in Olympia; and, on Monday, Inslee stopped by the campus for a town hall forum to answer questions submitted by students and the community.

Before the forum kicked off, Inslee praised PLU for its effort to register voters.

“We have found real leaders in democracy here on this campus,” he said. “I want to thank the Lutes for participating in this effort to engage more people in democracy. And you were so successful. To me, that’s something to really celebrate.”

Thirty community and technical colleges, and 13 four-year colleges participated in the challenge to inspire people to register new voters. Overall, the effort yielded 4,200 new registered voters in the state of Washington, Inslee said.

PLU registered 262 students for the contest. “That is eight percent of your student population,” Inslee noted. “Tremendous job.”

Inslee presented a certificate to the university recognizing it as a winner of the voter registration challenge.

Students and members of the community submitted questions for Inslee online, which were then read by the event’s moderator, Riley Dolan, civic engagement director for the Associated Students of PLU and a leader of the Lute Vote effort.

During the course of the forum, the governor reiterated his well-known support for robust environmental and renewable energy initiatives and highlighted several pieces of legislation that were passed during the state’s recently-completed legislative session.

Responding to a question about fracking, Inslee said the latest climate science suggests it would be best to eschew the fracking of natural gas — which he said was once considered a “bridge” fuel that could help us transition to cleaner forms of energy — in favor of truly clean, renewable forms of energy.

When asked about the city of Seattle’s failure to pass a head tax, Inslee noted that the legislature passed a bill that raises B&O taxes on companies operating in industries that rely on college-educated workers to help pay for tuition assistance. Asked about his thoughts on making it easier to launch public internet access, Inslee lauded the state’s commitment to net neutrality and pointed to a recently-passed bill that would expand broadband access to rural communities.