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Penn State Student Voter Turnout Soars for Midterm Election

by on November 08, 2018 9:55 AM

Voter enthusiasm and turnout was high for Tuesday's midterm election across the country, and Pennsylvania was no different, with unofficial numbers showing 4.9 million ballots cast across the commonwealth.

That's up from the 3.5 million voters who came out for the last midterm election in 2014. In Centre County, the increases tracked a slightly higher percentage, with turnout of 60,685 this year, 1.5 times more than the 39,606 of 2014. That's a turnout of about 55 percent of registered voters, compared to about 37 percent in 2014.

But among Penn State University Park students, there was an even greater surge. In the 11 State College precincts that have a student majority population, the number of ballots cast more than tripled.

In 2014, those precincts saw 1,882 voters. This year it was 6,950.

“Turnout was up all over the Commonwealth this year, but early numbers show University Park students far surpassed the statewide and national increase,” Kevin Horne, an attorney who works with Penn State’s Center for Character, Conscience, and Public Purpose (CCCPP) in the Office of Student Affairs, said in a news release. "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." 

Final voter registration numbers have not yet been released, but the unofficial vote totals indicate that registration and get-out-the-vote efforts on campus were successful. CCCPP worked throughout the fall with student organizations  to encourage students to register and vote.

Four State College precincts that vote in the HUB-Robeson Center on campus are populated almost entirely by students. Those precincts saw more than five times the number of voters over the last midterm, from a mere 616 in 2014 to 3,263 in 2018.

“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.”

McCarthy and Penn State College Democrats President Katierose Epstein said they are encouraged by student turnout this year and hope to see it carried forward.

“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.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at geoff.rushton@statecollege.com or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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