Spider students broke voter turnout records in 2020

January 3, 2022


Student voting at the University of Richmond increased nearly 15% in the 2020 presidential election, rising to 71.7% in 2020 from 56.9% in 2016.

Those numbers reflect a nationwide trend of increased college student voting across the country in the election. The historic numbers also reflect the University’s commitment to engage student voters. 

During the election, the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement provided a variety of virtual and physically distanced efforts, including creating a voting guide, hosting election-related lunch discussions, and distributing kits for physically distanced and remote watch parties. The CCE also delivered voter registration and absentee voter forms from on-campus submission boxes to local election offices.

“The increase in voting among students on our campus is exciting, however, it is not surprising given the coordinated efforts of our community and the number of urgent issues our students care about,” said Sylvia Gale, executive director of the CCE. “All elections are important, and we are delighted to engage in opportunities that ensure young people’s voices can be heard.”

Athletics served youth voters by forming the SpidersVote committee, which included administrators and student athletes. Nearly 95% of student athletes registered to vote, and all practices and games were cancelled on Election Day to maximize voter opportunities.

Jennifer Erkulwater, professor and chair of political science, noted that while the youth vote was down in the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election, the data from the presidential election is not surprising. 

“In the 2016 and 2020 elections, even the 2018 midterms, the youth vote went up along with voting overall in all age cohorts, driven by the polarization in politics,” Erkulwater said.