Helping Students Vote During a Pandemic
Inside Higher Ed, Elizabeth Redden:
A new survey of 4,000 college students from the Knight Foundation released Monday found that 70 percent plan to vote for Democratic candidate Joe Biden for president, while just 18 percent prefer President Trump. About seven out of 10 students said they are “absolutely certain” they will vote in the presidential election, but nearly half (49 percent) expressed a lack of confidence in the legitimacy of the election. Just over half of students plan to vote by mail or absentee, with students who identify as Democrats being twice as likely as Republicans to prefer a mail-in option (63 percent versus 31 percent).
The new memorandum makes a number of specific recommendations for encouraging student voting, and notes challenges around student voting that come with a heavier reliance on mail-in ballots.
“Students living on or near campus who register there tend to vote at higher rates, but residential students who vote absentee or by mail do not follow through as regularly,” reads the memorandum, which was jointly released by the Tufts institute, the Andrew Goodman Foundation and the Fair Election Center's Campus Vote Project. “There is also evidence that students vote provisionally more than other voters, that those provisional ballots are not only over-relied on but also disproportionately rejected compared to other voters, and that students’ absentee or mailed-in ballots are similarly rejected at disproportionately higher rates. Absent interventions, the removal of barriers to voting by mail, and education, voting rates for students will be low in 2020.”
The memorandum suggests colleges should advocate for online voter registration and “robust” mail-in voting, in addition to supporting “excuse-free” early voting with extended hours and working with state election officials to locate polling places or ballot drop boxes on campuses.
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