We Voted: Penn State students surge to the polls for midterms

November 07, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State students truly rocked the vote during this year’s mid-term elections, with voter turnout rates far exceeding other recent midterm elections.

Both University Park and Commonwealth Campuses saw increased voter turnout, with more than five times as many students voting at the HUB-Robeson Center on the University Park campus than the 2014 midterms, according to Kevin Horne, an attorney in the Office of Student Affairs affiliated with Penn State’s Center for Character, Conscience, and Public Purpose (CCCPP). CCCPP facilitated Penn State's student-led voter turnout efforts.

According to the National Study on Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE), 11,208 Penn State students across the University voted in the 2014 midterm elections. Based on the early data from this election, Horne estimates that Penn State's student voter participation rate across all campuses likely more than doubled in Tuesday’s midterm election.

“Turnout was up all over the Commonwealth this year, but early numbers show University Park students far surpassed the statewide and national increase,” Horne said. "We're proud to see so many of our students exercising their right to vote, practicing civic engagement and understanding their responsibility for the public good."

Commonwealth Campuses experienced a moderate uptick in voter turnout, while precincts in State College with a student-majority population saw an increase of nearly four times as many voters as in previous elections, estimates Horne. Centre County has 91 voting precincts, 11 of which have a majority student population, Horne said. Those 11 student-heavy precincts turned out nearly 7,000 voters—3.7 times more than in the 2014 mid-term elections.

The CCCPP, and the Office of Student Affairs more broadly, worked closely with student organizations at University Park to share best practices and resources, encourage civic engagement, help register students to vote and help drive voter turnout. But for Horne, it was the students who made the most of the resources available to them and got their fellow students involved with the democratic process.

“Up until the October deadline in Pennsylvania, we registered students to vote in a joint effort with the College Democrats, University Park Undergraduate Association, Graduate and Professional Student Association, and other student organizations,” said Reagan McCarthy, president of the Penn State College Republicans.  “We brainstormed a lot with Student Affairs on how to increase the effectiveness of our voter registration drives and turnout efforts, and the University was very helpful with efforts on election day.”

President of the Penn State College Democrats Katierose Epstein, agreed, explaining that she, McCarthy, and other student leaders met on a regular basis throughout the election cycle to develop ways to best register students to vote and get them to the voting booth come election day—efforts that were clearly visible at the polls.

“We ran out of ‘I voted’ stickers, which is incredible,” Epstein said. “I was outside of Heritage Hall all day yesterday, and I saw 3,000 students come to vote.”

McCarthy calls voting both a civic duty and a privilege, noting that “not only should everyone vote, but everyone should want to vote and make their voice heard.” For that reason, she said student turnout for this year’s midterms was “very encouraging.”

But even with this impressive accomplishment, student leaders are already focused on the future.

“I’m a senior this year, but one day, I really want to come back to Penn State and see that every student is registered to vote,” Epstein said.

Last Updated November 07, 2018