Jomella Watson-Thompson
Center for Service Learning

College student voting doubled at KU, according to national study

Tue, 11/19/2019

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas received a gold seal for achieving a student voting rate between 40% and 49% at the 2019 ALL IN Challenge Awards Ceremony held to recognize colleges and universities committed to increasing college student voting rates.  KU is one of 169 colleges and universities to receive the gold seal. Both two-year and four-year public and private institutions are eligible for the seal.

“The University of Kansas is proud to receive this national recognition for our efforts. Civic engagement is a value promoted by the university as demonstrated by our core curriculum requirements, which prioritizes civic and social responsibility. Our faculty, staff, administrators and students are committed to working together to increase engagement and graduate civic-minded students prepared to solve the country, and the world’s, most pressing challenges,” said Jomella Watson-Thompson, director of the Center for Service Learning (CSL). CSL is committed to promoting civic engagement in a variety of ways, but particularly through voter participation.

The number of KU students who voted went up in last year’s election, increasing to 44.9% in 2018 from a rate of 21.3% in 2014. The voting rate at KU for the midterm elections in 2018 was slightly higher than the overall rate for all institutions participating in National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE). Often, there is a decrease in votes during midterm elections, but many KU students voted. In 2018, there were 19,202 students registered to vote, of whom 57.6% voted, an increase from 31.5% in 2014.

NSLVE is conducted by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life. It is based on the voting records of more than 10 million students at more than 1,000 colleges and universities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The study shows that nationwide, the voting rates at participating college campuses doubled on average compared with the 2014 midterm. In 2018, the average institutional voting rate among campuses in the study was 39.1%, nearly 20 percentage points higher than 2014’s average turnout rate of 19.7 percent.

The study provides reports to participating colleges and universities, including KU, which use them to support political learning and civic engagement as well as to identify and address gaps in political and civic participation. The full NSLVE report for KU can be viewed here. The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge is a nonpartisan, national initiative recognizing and supporting more than 560 campuses and 6.2 million students who have joined the challenge to increase nonpartisan democratic engagement and full student voter participation.

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