2020 continues to be a year characterized by uncertainty and hardship across the globe. In the United States alone, as of November 4, over 230,000 people have died from COVID-19, weekly unemployment claims continue at record highs, and acts of police brutality are still all too common. We have also been in the midst of a contentious national election cycle for months.
Despite these significant economic, social, and health hardships, Americans are practicing their civic duty for the 2020 presidential election, and shattering records in the process. The COVID-19 pandemic complicated the voting process as in-person voting locations were consolidated and many more Americans than ever before chose to vote absentee by mail. With all of these changes and adaptations, nearly 160 million Americans practiced their civic duty—an increase of over 20 million votes, compared to 2016.
Turnout among young people (18 to 29 year-olds) is historically much lower than other ages. In 2016, turnout was just 46.1 percent among this demographic, but was over 70 percent for citizens over the age of 65 (U.S. Census, 2017).
It is too early to know exact turnout numbers for the 2020 election, but before November 3, early voting numbers among young people had already surpassed the total number of votes cast in 2016 among this demographic in several states. This is an encouraging trend, but this does not happen automatically. Colleges and universities are part of the equation in helping increase turnout for all voters, including students and surrounding community members. Many institutions developed outreach campaigns, both on campus and virtually, to help inform students and their broader communities on what exactly is on the local ballot, where to vote, and how to vote (i.e. hours, ID requirements, etc). Many universities also made Election Day a university holiday, and many others have created post-election discussions to create spaces for addressing the anxieties associated with elections.
CUMU is proud to read about the efforts across our membership, and we want to highlight a few examples. We know this is just a sampling. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a press release or update you would like us to add.
Institutions holding post-election conversations and reflections include:
On a closing note, elections are important, but being civically engaged is not something that happens only on Election Day. CUMU members illustrate each day impactful actions to continually support the communities in which we reside.