As a way to track voter engagement at NC State, the University participates in The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE). This program is run by Tufts University, and is the first and only study to objectively look at student voting data and to share the data with participating universities.
According to Brian Mathis, associate director of Leadership and Civic Engagement, NC State and the other campuses involved in the study release student enrollment records and then compare it with public national voter data.
The data NC State releases to the study includes a student’s political affiliation, Mathis said, which is then used by Tufts to create a report for NC State to gauge voter engagement metrics for the University.
According to the NSLVE, during the 2016 presidential election, there 28,833 eligible voters out of 33,598 NC State students. Of those students, 54.3% voted in the election, just slightly higher than the study’s average voting rate for all participating institutions (50.4%). According to the report, 71.7% of NC State students were registered to vote in 2016.
In 2018, 35,414 students were enrolled at the University, more students than in 2016. 75.1% of NC State students registered for the 2018 midterms, a very similar number to those registered in 2016. In 2018, 41.8% of the 30,289 eligible voters — and 55.7% of registered voters — voted in the midterm elections, an increase of 18 points over turnout in 2014.
The reports indicate that, for both general and midterm elections, many NC State students voted early. 55.7% of students voted early in 2016, and 59.4% voted early in 2018.
Mathis said he anticipates that many students will vote early this year. He believes that the on-campus voter engagement initiatives, as well as on-campus voting sites, are what will cause more students to vote early.
“When we didn't have early voting on campus at all in 2014, it was only 25%,” Mathis said. “We started [early voting] back in 2016 by the McKimmon Center, and even then, the 2016 early-voting rate for NC State was about 55%. When you look at what it was in 2018, when we moved it to campus at Talley Student Union, where it was more accessible, the early-voting rate rose to nearly 60%.”
In both 2016 and 2018, the most popular student voting methods, besides early voting, were as follows:
In-person on Election Day: 29.5% (2016), 28.4% (2018)
Absentee voting: 12.5% (2016), 9.6% (2018)
By mail: 0.3% (2016), 0.7% (2018)
Mathis said he is unsure how students will choose to utilize mail-in voting this election; however, he predicts it will increase.