GC voting

Students on campus registering to vote.

Georgia College has received great news about its push to civically engage students.

Three times as many Georgia College students voted in 2018 midterm elections, than in 2014. 

That’s a 28.1 percent increase from 13 percent voting in 2014 to 41.2 percent in 2018, according to a newly-released report by the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE) at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life in Medford, Mass.

Georgia College was also designated a Voter Friendly Campus in February by NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

“It’s remarkable we were able to improve that much on Georgia College voter participation,” said Dr. Janet Hoffmann, professor of rhetoric and coordinator of Georgia College’s American Democracy Project. “I wanted to move the needle on Georgia College’s student civic engagement and we did — with a vengeance.”

This surge in student voting parallels a national trend.

From 2014 to 2018, voter turnout for college students more than doubled in the United States. Nearly 40 percent of eligible student voters nationwide cast ballots in 2018 — a momentous upsurge from 19 percent, NSLV reported. Some news outlets are suggesting “a traditionally apathetic voting bloc may significantly influence next year’s presidential contest and politics at large,” according to an article by Inside Higher Ed.

The NSLVE report is based on voting records of more than 10 million students at more than 1,000 colleges and universities nationwide. Stats for 2018 noted turnout increases at nearly all participating campuses since 2014. The voting rate for all participating institutions was 39.1 percent in 2018, compared to 19.7 percent in 2014 — a 20 percent increase.

NSLVE released its study in September, showing Georgia College below the national student-voting average in 2014 by 6 percent. The university is now 2 percent above the current national average of 40.3 percent. 

Georgia College’s absentee ballot rate also increased by 15 percent. Its registration rate is now 84.6 percent, compared to the national student registration rate of 73.3 percent.

Since the last presidential election in 2016, Georgia College participated in the “All-in Democracy Challenge” to increase student registration and voting numbers. For the 2018 election, the university partnered with Turbovote, an app that makes voting easy by texting relevant information and reminders to students. Hoffman has continued to encourage registration and voting in the past few years, aided by political science major Ruby Zimmerman.

“We have exceeded the national average on pretty much every indicator,” Hoffman said. “I am ecstatic and looking forward to moving the needle even more in 2020. Georgia College students are truly civically engaged in the most fundamentally important way as citizens.”

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