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MIT student voting rates climb to nearly 40 percent

New technologies and campus engagement helped to spur a 26.4 percent increase in voting rates from 2014 to 2018.
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The MIT Vote-a-saurus in Lobby 7 helped encourage students to register to vote.
The MIT Vote-a-saurus in Lobby 7 helped encourage students to register to vote.
Photo: Danny Becker

MIT students are rocking the vote more and more. The student voting rate on campus was up in last year’s general election, increasing to an average of 39.7 percent in 2018 from an average rate of 13.2 percent in 2014.

The data come from a report from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, conducted by the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life.

The study shows that nationwide, voting rates in local, state, and nationwide elections at participating college campuses doubled, on average, compared to the previous 2014 midterm election. In 2018, the average institutional voting rate among campuses in the study was 39.1 percent, nearly 20 percentage points higher than 2014’s average turnout rate of 19.7 percent. Turnout increases were widespread, with virtually all campuses seeing an increase over 2014.

“MITVote’s outreach efforts, including a presence at every major orientation event, have really paid off in creating a community that sees the importance of voting specifically, and civic engagement in general,” says Danny Becker, PKG Center for Public Service (PKG Center) programs coordinator and MITVote’s advisor. “TurboVote has been a wonderful resource for MITvote as it supports students from every state in being able to register,” adds Becker.

The TurboVote app, developed by Democracy Works, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, is an online service that helps students to easily register and vote in every local, state, and national election.

Getting TurboVote into place at MIT was made possible through a collaborative effort by the PKG Center, the Registrar’s Office, the Division of Student Life, the Office of the Chancellor, Information Systems and Technology, and undergraduate and graduate student leadership. (An MIT Admissions blog entry recounts the effort in detail.)

“We’re excited more MIT students are stepping up to drive change in their communities through voting,” says Jill Bassett, newly appointed associate dean and director of the PKG Center. “Tripling our voting rate reflects a lot of hard work and hours of tabling by students and staff, thousands of stickers, and at least one inflatable dinosaur.”

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