U-M student voter turnout triples in 2018

October 4, 2019
Written By:
Dana Elger

Students in voting booths.

ANN ARBOR—Voter turnout among students at the University of Michigan for midterm elections tripled in 2018, compared to four years earlier.

More than 15,800 students cast their vote in the 2018 midterm elections—up from 5,282 students in 2014—raising the university’s student voting rate to 41%, up from 14%, according to data released by the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement.

U-M’s increase was higher than the national average among college students, which jumped from 19%, overall, to 40%.

“The increase is significant, especially when you take into account the reality that the state of Michigan had among the most restrictive youth voter laws in the country during the 2018 election cycle,” said Mary Jo Callan, director of the Ginsberg Center at U-M.

Since that time, some of the state’s voting laws were changed to ease the path for student voting, including same-day voter registration and no-reason absentee voting.

In September 2017, U-M launched the Big Ten Voting Challenge, a nonpartisan effort aimed at increasing voter registration and turnout among college students on all 14 campuses of the Big Ten Conference.

The challenge, led by the Ginsberg Center, will award the campus with the greatest overall turnout in 2018 and the campus with the greatest growth in turnout from 2014 to 2018.

Results from the challenge are expected to be released later this month.

At the launch, the presidents across the Big Ten each pledged $10,000 to be used on their respective campuses to promote student public engagement.

U-M created the Big Ten Voting Challenge Presidential Internship, and offered the first internship in summer 2019, working within the Michigan Secretary of State office in Lansing. An additional internship will be offered next summer.

The National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement is a signature initiative of the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education, an applied research center focused on college and university student political learning and participation in democracy, at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life.