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Posted on September 11, 2017

Cal U students use their smartphones.

A newly issued report on student voting rates shows that nearly 55 percent of California University of Pennsylvania students cast their ballots in the 2016 presidential election, exceeding the national average for college voters.

And although the number of registered student voters was smaller last November than in 2012, nearly 500 more Cal U students voted in the 2016 presidential election.

The report comes from the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE), an initiative of the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University's Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life.

Since 2013, more than 1,000 colleges and universities have asked NSLVE to research their voting rates for federal elections, using publicly available information that does not include the candidate or party a voter selected.

The study’s results are based on enrollment records submitted to the National Student Clearinghouse and public voting files collected by Catalist. NSLVE’s database of nearly 30 million college student records also is used for research on college students’ political learning and civic engagement.

“Research indicates that if college students participate in politics, they are more apt to remain active in community matters throughout their lives,” says political science professor Dr. Melanie Blumberg.

“Voter turnout, especially among younger voters, makes a difference.”

More student voters

According to the NSLVE report, 3,979 Cal U students cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election, compared to 3,488 who voted in 2012.

Cal U’s 54.6 percent voting rate exceeded the average of 50.4 percent for all colleges in the study.

The NSLVE study also showed that:

  • Voter registration among Cal U students increased from about 69 percent in 2012 to more than 75 percent last year.
  • More than 88 percent of Cal U student voters cast their ballot in person on Election Day. About 5 percent used absentee ballots, and a handful used early-voting or vote-by-mail options.
  • Voter participation at all class levels rose in 2016 compared to 2012.
  • A slightly higher percentage of women than men cast their vote, both in 2012 and in 2016.

Voter Registration Day 2017

California University of Pennsylvania continues to encourage voter engagement with a campuswide initiative to mark National Voter Registration Day, Sept. 26.

Between Sept. 25 and 27, Cal U faculty are encouraged to set aside the first five minutes of class time so students can register to vote online, using their laptops, tablets or smartphones.

Online students may receive a reminder to register through the University’s online learning management system.

The nonpartisan voter registration initiative replaces previous years’ efforts to register students in person, at tables set up on campus. The voter registration drive is supported by Dr. Bruce Barnhart, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs.

“Last year our faculty, administrators, staff and students worked tirelessly to register, educate and mobilize the campus community,” Barnhart says. “I am thankful again for their efforts in promoting civic engagement on our campus.”

Voter Friendly Campus Voter Friendly Campus logo

Based on its 2016 election-season activities, Cal U was named a Voter Friendly Campus, one of only seven Pennsylvania universities recognized by the nonpartisan organizations Campus Vote Project and NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Nationwide, just 83 campuses in 23 states were recognized as “voter-friendly” for practices that encourage students to register and vote.

Voter registration efforts at Cal U are led by the campus chapter of the American Democracy Project, a multi-campus initiative focused on higher education’s role in preparing the next generation of informed, engaged citizens for our democracy.