The backdrop of a global pandemic and a national call to recognize and respond to systemic racial and social injustices, including efforts to roll back voting rights, provided both challenges and inspiration to voters in the 2020 election. College and university students across the country voted in the 2020 election in record-breaking numbers. The students of Sonoma State University (SSU) were no exception, with 88.3% of registered voters casting their ballots and making their voices heard. This rate shows a significant increase from 56.9% in the 2018 election. SSU’s voter registration rate also increased from 75.8% in 2018 to 88.5% in 2020. These data demonstrate that SSU's voting rates have exceeded norms since 2014, and were certainly up in all demographic populations in 2020.
Another reason for the increase in SSU student voting is the Ballot Box on campus. By providing easy convenient access to voting, a major barrier has been removed. Any California ballot can be submitted there; your ballot does not have to be from Sonoma County. Additionally, there is now in-person on-campus voting, so anyone with questions can get help.
The impressive statistics about SSU voter turnout come from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, or NSLVE, conducted by Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life. This report is based on the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), conducted by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE), which is the only national study of college-student voting. 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.
In 2020, the Average Institutional Voting Rate (AIVR) among all campuses in the study was 66%, up 13 percentage points from 2016’s average turnout rate of 53%. Midterm election participation more than doubled from 19% in 2014 to 40% in 2018.
IDHE does not receive any information that could individually identify students or how they voted. The study provides reports to participating colleges and universities, like Sonoma State University, which use them to support political learning and civic engagement, as well as to identify and address gaps in political and civic participation. Access the full SSU report.
“I am so proud of our students for getting out there and making their voices heard. Voting is an important indicator of civic responsibility. Let’s set an ambitious goal and increase our numbers in the next election.” says Merith Weisman, Director of the Center for Community Engagement.