Newswise — Rutgers had the greatest gains in student voter turnout over the past four years in the Big Ten Voting Challenge – a nonpartisan initiative to spur civic engagement and encourage more students to head to the polls.
Launched in 2017, the Big Ten Voting Challenge awards two campuses for their student voting efforts: greatest student voter turnout, and most improved turnout. The inaugural challenge focused on the 2018 midterm election, when students across the Big Ten Conference voted in record numbers and exceeded their 2014 midterm voting activity.
Between 2014 and 2018, turnout increased significantly with 43 percent of students voting in 2018, up 31 percent from 12 percent voter turnout in 2014. Rutgers also received a Gold Seal from the ALL IN Challenge for having a 2018 campus voting rate between 40 percent and 49 percent in the 2018 midterm election. Alum April Nicklaus was one of 10 students named to the ALL IN Honor Roll for her work with NJPIRG Students.
The University of Minnesota led the conference with the greatest overall turnout of student voters.
“This remarkable outcome can be attributed to the collaborative work of a dedicated civic engagement coalition of campus administrators, faculty and students and to the commitment of the university to create a campus culture supportive of civic learning and engagement,” said Elizabeth C. Matto, associate research professor and director of the Center for Youth Political Participation at Rutgers.
The winners received trophies from the Ginsberg Center at the “ALL IN Challenge Awards Ceremony” today in Washington, D.C. Representatives from Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics' Center for Youth Political Participation and the Division of Student Affairs attended to accept the awards.
Matto said the creation of the Rutgers University Civic Engagement Coalition to coordinate efforts between Eagleton, Student Affairs, NJPIRG Students and other campus groups improved voter turnout significantly. In addition, Rutgers organized a campus-wide civic engagement summit, a civic action plan and calendar and numerous voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts, including pre-election day parties and "Parties at the Polls" on Election Day.
Other efforts included leveraging the existing university initiative RU Voting to encourage student voting and registration.
“I am heartened to see that so many Rutgers students understand that voter participation is a critical part of our nation’s democratic system,” said Rutgers–New Brunswick Chancellor Chris Molloy. “The Eagleton Institute of Politics and Division of Student Affairs are to be commended for working so diligently with our campus community to boost student engagement in issues that affect all our lives. The results of the Big Ten Voting Challenge are clear evidence that Rutgers is a leader in promoting civic engagement, and I look forward to our student voter turnout continuing to rise in the 2020 elections.”
An estimated 7.5 million students nationwide voted in 2018 midterms, according to data from the National Study of Learning, Voting and Student Engagement at Tufts University.
The average student voting rate across the Big Ten Conference jumped to 43 percent, surpassing the national average student voting rate of 40 percent and more than double the national student voting rate of 19 percent in 2014.
As a result of the increased voter turnout, the 14 presidents across the Big Ten Conference have agreed to continue the challenge for the 2020 presidential election.