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Penn State Student Voting Saw Significant Increase In 2020

Following increased efforts to inform students about voting, Penn State saw a significant increase in election participation last year.

According to a recent report on student voting nationwide, 69% of Penn State students voted in the 2020 election, rising significantly from 56% in 2016. Additionally, student voter registration rates rose to 84%, which is a 5% increase from 2016. Of these registered students, 82% voted, which is 11% above 2016’s rate. About 57% of students voted by mail compared to 30% in 2016.

“COVID presented significant challenges and changes for the fall 2020 election. As a result, we sent multiple emails to the Penn State community on how and when to register to vote and submit mail-in ballots,” said Tim Balliet, director of Penn State’s Center for Character, Conscience, and Public Purpose. “At University Park, we partnered with the Centre County Elections Office to host a remote elections office at the Bryce Jordan Center and ballot drop-off box at the HUB-Robeson Center.”

This report on nationwide student voting was completed by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE), founders of the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE). The IDHE is located at Tuft University’s Tisch College of Civic Life.

IDHE’s National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement is the largest nationwide study of university and college student voting. Universities must opt-in for the study, and currently, about 1,200 campuses across the country participate.

Following Penn State’s impressive increase in student voting, the university was awarded a Silver Seal from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. This honor is awarded to institutions with a student voter participation rate between 60-69%.

All-in-all, the report cited record-breaking numbers. Students from all over the country utilized the momentum built in the 2018 midterm election to reach impressive numbers during the 2020 election. Voter turnout rose from 52% in 2016 to 66% in 2020. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, this increase outpaces that of all Americans, which rose from 61% in 2016 to 66% in 2020.

The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge is a national, nonpartisan initiative of Civic Nation, a 501(c)(3) organization. The initiative strives for an inclusive democracy where all voices are heard, and believes that higher education plays an integral role in doing so. The challenge also aims to increase institutional efforts to improve civic knowledge and voter engagement.

To learn more about the ALL IN Challenge, visit

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About the Author

Lauren Wysseier

Lauren is a junior writer majoring in advertising from Fort Myers, Florida. She is a Floridian but, at heart, a Pennsylvanian. Her go-to fun fact is that she used to live in Barcelona, Spain. She is passionate about dogs, food, the Oxford comma, and most importantly, all-things Penn State. Don't hesitate to send her your best dog videos on Twitter @laurenwysseier or email [email protected] with other inquiries.

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