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Unprecedented numbers of university students voted in 2020


The University of Nevada, Reno yesterday reported that student voting on its campus increased 14 percent in last year’s presidential election. That’s an increase to 72 percent in 2020 from 58 percent in 2016.

“This is the result of a campus-wide effort to register, educate and motivate our students to engage in this right and privilege. We know that many of these students were first-time voters and this is the beginning of a civic engagement habit that will last a lifetime,” said Shannon Ellis, vice president of student services

The jump is similar to what Washoe County as a whole saw last year — an 83% voter turnout, up from 70% in 2018.

The Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) created the report documenting UNR’s numbers. The study’s authors reported that at campuses across the country students built on the momentum swing of 2018 and voted at high rates in the 2020 election. 

“It is nothing short of stunning that students, often younger and first-time voters, turned out at rates commensurate with the general public,” IDHE Director Nancy Thomas said. “We attribute this high level of participation to many factors, including student activism on issues such as racial injustice, global climate change and voter suppression, as well as increased efforts by educators to reach students and connect them to the issues and to voting resources.”

IDHE’s data reflect all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They include 49 of the nation’s 50 flagship schools. 

“Motivating students to register, become educated on the ballot, and vote establishes civic habits that last well beyond the collegiate experience,” said Sandra Rodriguez, director of ASUN Center for Student Engagement. “The goal is to drive civic learning and democratic engagement work within our community and through both the academic and cocurricular classrooms.”

Election results from 2020 put President Joe Biden in office and helped maintain Nevada’s status as a blue state, a status driven by the state’s large urban centers — Washoe and Clark counties.

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