In August, Washington University in St. Louis received exciting news about our 2016 student registration rates, voter turnout, and how we compare to similar institutions across the country. The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), part of the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tufts University, compiles data on both undergraduate and graduate level student voting. More than 1,000 campuses participate, and for the 2016 election, NSLVE’s analysis encompassed voting records of 9,784,931 million students. According to the 2016 Campus Report, WashU’s voting rate increased by 11% from 2012 and exceeded the national average by 2 percentage points. Registration rates increased by 4%, and the voting rate of registered students increased by 10% over the same period.
NSLVE’s data reflects the Gephardt Institute’s approach to voter engagement as a collaborative process that engages the full campus community. The institute, responsible for overseeing voter registration, engagement, and compliance for all students on campus, led an extraordinary effort to increase voter turnout in 2016. Beginning in spring 2016 through November’s Election Day, the institute focused on increasing voter turnout by registering WashU students and educating them on ballot issues and voting logistics. WashU contracted with TurboVote to complete voter registration through a nonpartisan, web-based platform. In total, of 14,522 enrolled students at WashU, 8,963 WashU students registered to vote.
This year, the Gephardt Institute continues to contract with TurboVote, which enables the institute to support students as they register as voters or update their addresses, navigate the absentee voting process in their home states, and comply with their state’s registration deadlines and processes. The institute also emphasizes the life-long identity of being a voter rather than the act of voting in a single election and encourages shared learning and respect in the following ways:
- Education on civic engagement and the democratic process
- Political participation 365 days a year, even outside of major presidential elections
- A nonpartisan and inclusive approach to engagement
During the current academic year, WashU students are once again making their voices heard by registering to vote and engaging with important public issues. Since July 1, 2017, 839 students have registered as voters or updated their registration on TurboVote. According to the 2017 WashU PULSE survey data of enrolled students, 23% of WashU students participate in politics beyond voting (up from 15% in 2013), and an additional 16% plan to do so (up from 10% in 2013).
The Gephardt Institute convenes a group of WashU Votes student and staff volunteers to support messaging and outreach about voter registration and political engagement. In recent weeks, members have hosted tables and offered resources to students in celebration of Constitution Day and National Voter Registration Day. Students interested in learning more and getting involved in this effort can email firstname.lastname@example.org.