Based on data collected in the 2014 midterm and 2012 presidential elections, the UNL student body is among the nation’s most active in terms of political participation.
In the 2014 midterm on Nov. 4, UNL was fourth in total students participating in TurboVote, a nonpartisan, nonprofit project designed to help voters register and receive information about elections. For the 2012 election, more than 69 percent of UNL’s registered student voters — 10,743 out of 15,529 — cast ballots either in person or via absentee.
“This generation of students has consistently shown that they are active in and concerned about civic engagement,” said Linda Major, assistant to the vice chancellor for student affairs and director of UNL’s Center for Civic Engagement. “Our students are consistently pursuing opportunities to make an impact on the community and world. Voting is just one way they do just that.”
As a lead institution in the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators’ Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement effort, UNL was offered a grant to subsidize participation in TurboVote. Major said the grant matched half of the $1,000 annual cost, with the Center for Civic Engagement providing the other $500.
Students Erin Cooper, Billy Stock and Whitney Johnson led the project with assistance from the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska and the Center for Civic Engagement.
“Those three students did an excellent job organizing a series of activities to get the TurboVote project out in front of the student body,” Major said. “TurboVote actually called us and asked what we were doing to be so successful because, unlike other universities, we did not send out a campus-wide email about the project.
“We just had a good group that invested a lot of sweat equity that generated a ground swell of participation.”
Through TurboVote’s online portal, 1,134 UNL students completed registration with the project. Of those, 1,049 students requested voter registration forms, 854 requested absentee ballots, and 894 asked for email or text reminders on when and where to vote.
The totals placed UNL fourth for the year and 17th all-time in terms of voters signed up. More than 225 colleges have participated in the TurboVote program.
In the 2012 federal election, a report from Tufts University showed that 79 percent of the UNL student body was registered to vote. Ballots were cast by 69 percent of those registered student voters.
The top five fields of study that cast votes (by percentage) were: Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies, 76 percent; Humanities, 69 percent; Social Sciences, 68 percent; Education, 64 percent; and Professionals, 63 percent.
Major said campus-specific results from the 2014 election were not yet available.
“We expect the midterm voter turnout followed national trends and was not as high as 2012 presidential election,” Major said. “But, when you combine the results from 2012 and our participation with TurboVote, it’s easy to see that the registration and voting rates of our students are above the national average.”