Brown Student Voting Rates Increased Three-Fold in 2018

Student voting increased from 13% to 45%, according to national study.
September 24, 2019

The midterm elections typically see a drop in voting, but in 2018, Brown University students - like voters nationwide - turned out in record numbers to vote. According to a report released on September 19, student voting on campus was up in last year’s election, increasing to 45.1% in 2018 from a rate of 13.4% in 2014. Brown’s 2018 voting rate places it 6% above the national average.

"As a student that has been involved and interested in politics for a long time, I am inspired to see so many of my peers engaging with our democracy through voting,” said Ethan Morelión '20, a member of the Swearer Center’s Student Advisory Committee. “Our vote shows that we have a vested interest in our futures and we demand that our politicians do as well."

This report is part of the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, or NSLVE, conducted by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life. The study shows that nationwide, the voting rates at participating college campuses doubled on average compared to the previous 2014 midterm. In 2018, the Average Institutional Voting Rate (AIVR) among campuses in the study was 39.1%, nearly 20 percentage points higher than 2014’s average turnout rate of 19.7%. Turnout increases were widespread, with virtually all campuses seeing an increase over 2014.

“Our goal was to double the 2014 voting rate on campus, and Brown students shattered that!” said Betsy Shimberg, Director of Student Development at the Swearer Center. “They are using their votes and their voices. Regardless of a student’s eligibility to vote, there are many ways for all people to be involved beyond the ballot, and the Swearer Center looks forward to hosting continued civic engagement conversations and opportunities.”

As part of an ongoing effort to increase student voting, the Swearer Center has spearheaded a voting initiative in partnership with TurboVote, allowing students to easily register, update their details, request an absentee ballot, and receive election reminders. Registration stations have been provided at campus-wide fairs and events, as well as during high-traffic periods like student move-in, offering students an accessible way to engage in local and national elections. 

“It's especially exciting to see such high rates for a midterm election and not just for a presidential election,” said Rainbow Chen '21, Co-Chair of the Swearer Center’s Student Advisory Committee. “It really shows how much students want their voice represented. I'm extremely proud to be part of Brown's leading role in student civic participation and look forward to seeing us pass the 50% mark in the 2020 elections.”

The student voting report was released in the lead-up to National Voter Registration Day on September 24, when eligible students are encouraged to register to vote either in Rhode Island or their home state. Students can visit at any time to register to vote, update their registration, receive election reminders, or apply for an absentee ballot. Students who have questions can also reach out to Steve Pokorny at [email protected].



Part of Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) is an applied research center focused on college and university student political learning and engagement in democracy. IDHE researchers study student voting, equity, campus conditions for student political learning, discourse, participation, and agency for underrepresented and marginalized students. IDHE's signature initiative, the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, or NSLVE, ( is a service to colleges and universities that provides participating institutions with tailored reports of their students' voting rates. Launched in 2013 with 250 campuses, the study now serves more than 1,000 institutions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.