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Record Voting by ESU Students in 2020

College-student voting skyrocketed nationwide in 2020, new report finds

Voting by Emporia State University students increased significantly in last year’s presidential election, rising to 70.5 percent in 2020 from a rate of 49.5 percent in 2016.

The information comes from a report released Monday, Nov. 1, by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education, creators of the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement or NSLVE. IDHE is located at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life.

The full report for the ESU campus can be viewed here:

According to Rob Catlett, a professor in the ESU Department of Mathematics & Economic, Emporia State has been continuously active in the American Democracy Project even before its first national meeting in 2004. At that time, a campus audit revealed that less than 10 percent of eligible ESU students were registered to vote. By the November 2020 election, that percentage had risen to 80.7 percent, which is the record, so far. In addition to voter participation, civic engagement has many elements and ESU students and faculty have been part of many nationwide civic engagement leadership activities.

Nationwide, the study’s authors report a record-breaking set of findings. On campuses across the country, students built on the momentum swing of 2018 and voted at high rates in the 2020 election, with voter turnout jumping to 66 percent in last year’s presidential election. The 14 percentage-point increase, from 52 percent turnout in the 2016 election, outpaces that of all Americans, which jumped 6 percentage points from 61 to 67 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“That students, often younger and first-time voters, turned out at rates commensurate with the general public is nothing short of stunning,” said IDHE Director Nancy Thomas. “We attribute this high level of participation to many factors, including student activism on issues such as racial injustice, global climate change and voter suppression, as well as increased efforts by educators to reach students and connect them to the issues and to voting resources.”

“Emporia State University always seeks to promote civic engagement and voter participation by students and employees,” said Dr. George Arasimowicz, ESU’s acting president. “We affirm the work of IDHE and we look forward to increases in voter registration and turnout.”

IDHE’s National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE, pronounced n-solve) is the nation’s largest study of college and university student voting. Institutions must opt-in to the study, and at this time, nearly 1,200 campuses of all types—community colleges, research universities, minority-serving and women’s colleges, state universities, and private institutions—participate. The dataset reflects all 50 states and the District of Columbia and includes 49 of the nation’s 50 flagship schools. IDHE uses de-identified student records to ensure student privacy. The 2020 dataset is robust with 8,880,700 voting-eligible students representing 1,051 colleges and universities.