This increase in participation comes at a time when the University is taking further steps to institutionalize a culture of voting across campus. Leading up to the 2018 elections, the Harvard Votes Challenge, a voter engagement and education initiative launched by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics and Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, rallied students from Harvard’s 12 degree-granting schools to register and vote.
Led as a joint-effort from students, faculty, and administrators, members of Harvard Votes Challenge hosted registration drives, on-campus events, and even a friendly competition with rival Yale to boost voter participation numbers. Harvard Kennedy School mobilized to help register over 90 percent of eligible students as part of the challenge.
“This latest report on voter participation exemplifies the impact institutional support can have on civic engagement at the University,” said Teresa Acuña, associate director for democratic governance at the Ash Center. “The Harvard Votes Challenge team will build on the success of the last election to ensure every student, staff, and faculty participates in our democracy.”
The increase in Harvard voter participation is consistent with findings showing a rise in young voter participation across the U.S. in 2018. NSLVE reported that nationally, 39 percent of eligible students enrolled at institutions of higher education voted in the midterms last year, nearly 20 percentage points higher than 2014’s numbers. This data coupled with reports showing similar increases among all eligible voters aged 18-29 has observers predicting that young voters will play a pivotal role in the 2020 presidential election.