Student voter turnout at the University of Wisconsin increased 7.4 percentage points in last year’s presidential election, rising from 65.4% in 2016 to 72.8% in 2020.
UW’s student voting rate was higher than the national student voting rate, which was only 66% in 2020, according to a recent report from the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education.
Political science professor and Faculty Chair of BadgersVote Barry Burden said in an interview with Morgridge Center for Public Service that students should be proud of achieving such a high turnout despite obstacles from the pandemic.
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According to a National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement report, 24,572 of the 33,749 eligible UW students voted.
UW Political Science professor David Canon attributes this increase in student voter turnout to the heightened political tension of the last presidential election.
“It was basically an anti-Trump effect, where issues like climate change, civil rights … LGBTQ rights and all kinds of issues where Trump was not consistent with the views of a large majority of young voters,” Canon said. “I think that was definitely motivating.”
These numbers will likely decrease significantly in 2022 because America’s political climate has cooled down since the last election, Canon said.
But if Donald Trump runs for office again in the 2024 presidential election, Canon predicts UW will see another increase.
“I think you’ll see a very strong student turnout again in 2024,” Canon said.
At UW, student voting efforts were coordinated by BadgersVote, a partnership between the MCPS, the Madison City Clerk’s Office, Associated Students of Madison, University Communications and a number of other campus units, according to MCPS.
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BadgersVote set up registration drives, publicity campaigns, podcast discussion panels, social media drives and a debate election day, according to MCPS.
The goal of BadgersVote is to provide UW students with the information and resources they need to participate in local, state and national elections, according to the organization’s Facebook page.
“It’s important to vote in every election,” Canon said. “I think that … really is a requirement for having a strong, functioning democracy, having elections in which as many people participate as can. It’s more than just voting once every four years in a presidential race, but it’s voting for all the different elections.”