Rollins Receives National Recognition for 2020 Student Voter Turnout

November 30, 2021

By Elsa Wenzel

Skylar Knight places voting signs on campus.
Photo by Scott Cook.

The College has earned high marks for mobilizing unprecedented levels of participation in the 2020 presidential election.

Each year, the ALL IN Campus Democracy Awards honor colleges and universities committed to increasing political engagement on campuses throughout the U.S. Utilizing data from Tufts University’s National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), the organization awards seals to schools with the highest levels of engagement. Rollins recently received a Gold Seal in recognition of the College’s outstanding voting rate of 72.9 percent. This is a 10 percent increase from 2016 and exceeds the national average of 66 percent.

More than 800 institutions participated in the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, which seeks to advance the democratic process on college campuses via political organizations and activities. One way the organization promotes a more inclusive democracy is by advocating for higher participation in local, state, and federal elections, encouraging institutions to help students form the habits of active and informed citizenship.

The hotly contested 2020 election drove new levels of participation from college students nationwide, the largest and most diverse group of them on record. Two-thirds of college students voted, a 14-point rise from 2016, according to research by the Institute for Democracy in Higher Education (IDHE) at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University.

“The unprecedented campus voting rate of 72.9 percent for the 2020 presidential election is a testament to Rollins students’ commitment to civic engagement at the ballot box and beyond despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Bailey Clark ’11, associate director of Rollins’ Center for Leadership & Community Engagement.

Rollins student wearing a "I am a voter" mask to the polls for the 2020 presidential election.Rollins student wearing a "I am a voter" mask to the polls for the 2020 presidential election.
Distributing “I am a voter” masks was just one of the many initiatives created by Rollins’ Democracy Project during the 2020 presidential election cycle to galvanize student voting.Photo by Scott Cook.

Rollins students consistently demonstrate higher voter turnout than national levels, and that was true even during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many students attending remotely. Some voted from another state, for the first time, or for the first time by mail amid a nationwide shortage of postal workers.

“In 2020, Rollins student leaders, faculty, and staff had to be creative with civic engagement efforts in order to prioritize health and safety, straying from traditional voter registration drives, debate watch parties, and other large-scale in-person events,” adds Clark. “Despite the challenges, the entire Rollins community rallied to ensure all students were equipped to register to vote and cast their ballot in the 2020 presidential election.”

Many of these efforts came specifically from the work of the student-led Democracy Project, which fosters civic engagement and voter participation in creative ways that extend beyond election cycles. Entering its 11th year, the Democracy Project is one of the most active groups on campus, holding multiple outdoor voter registration drives in 2020 in partnership with the Orange County Supervisor of Elections and harnessing social media, email, and webinars to share election information.

“Having the opportunity to be the Democracy Project student coordinator allows me to have a hands-on leadership role in increasing the civic engagement of the community I live in,” says Sophia Allred ’22, a law school hopeful who embodies Rollins’ mission of global citizenship and responsible leadership. “My goals and aspirations are to engage my local community to participate actively in the democratic process, and this means taking the initiative to be educated about what’s going on in our society and actively engaging in respectful dialogue and debate about the issues that define our lives.”

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