Increasing Student Political Participation

October 25, 2016

Initial curators: Andrew Snyder, TurboVote


While many parts of fostering civic engagement in a campus environment are hard to measure, the rate of student voter registration and student voting are two very easy variables to quantify, and are in fact publicly available data if you know where to look. And of course, if you’re not registered, you can’t vote.

Different inputs that affect the rate student voting at a given institution highlighted in this guide are more complicated, and will vary substantially from campus to campus depending on the student population type.

To increase the rate of student voter registration and student voting on your campus, you’ll need to solve key process issues for students who are approaching elections as voting age adults for the very first time. Voter education about how one registers and casts a ballot will be key, including providing your students information about online vs. paper based registration, registration deadlines, state-based voting related laws, and the absentee ballot process for students who want to vote at their permanent address.

Key resources

Data for Assessment:

Without data, there’s no benchmark for assessment and improving the rate of student voting.

  • NSLVE – The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement at Tufts University serves over 800 higher ed institutions and matches student voter file data to the National Student Clearinghouse to give your institution a detailed report on the percentage of students registered and voting in federal elections.
  • TurboVote Partner Data – All TurboVote partners have access to data on the back end of the platform about decisions their users are making to register, vote absentee, and subscribe to email and text message reminders.

Civic Technology:

Meeting students where they often are, on their digital devices, is increasingly important in student-centered communication. Civic Technology refers to technology that aims to have a civic Impact, whether it’s electoral, engagement, or otherwise:

  • TurboVote – With over 260 higher ed partners in 43 states since launching in 2010, TurboVote is an web based “one stop shop” for voter registration and engagement.
  • iCitizen – An app that transform how users communicate on civic issues, is community centric, and allows you to align yourselves with others on political issues.
  • – This site has a simple purpose, to check if one’s already registered or not.
  • – “Everything you need to vote.”

Youth Focused Civic Information:

Providing your students with up to date information on the voting process, issues, and candidates is crucial to fostering a campus with a high measure of “civic health”.

  • eThePeople creates nonpartisan voter guides that contain candidate information
  • CIRCLE – Part-Think Tank, part youth voting advocacy organization, CIRCLE out of Tufts University is the best source of the latest youth-focused electoral research.

Non Profit Programmatic Support:

Several NonProfits work in the youth civic engagement space, and many lend resources to aid your efforts, often in terms of “boots on the ground”

Campus Civic Engagement Designations:

Your institution can apply for these campus civic engagement designations:

  • NASPA LEAD Initiative
  • Carnegie Campus Civic Engagement Designation
  • Students Learn Students Vote Coalition



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