Kevin Xavier Garcia-Galindo (He/Him) ’24, Staff Writer

Voter turnout at Davidson College exceeded that of the country, state, and national average. Graphic by Hollis Plexico ’24

According to a national Tufts University CIRCLE study, the turnout rate for voters aged 18-29 between the 2016 and 2020 election rose by an impressive 11 percent, from an estimated 44 percent turnout rate in 2016 to a 55 percent turnout rate in the 2020 presidential election. As impressive as the 89 percent turnout rate is, it is still important to acknowledge that the turnout rate only accounts for students registered on campus and not students registered elsewhere, meaning that it is actually possible that the real turnout rate may be slightly higher.

During the historic 2020 presidential election, Davidson College reached the momentous milestone of an 89 percent student voter turnout rate. This came as a remarkable achievement for the Center for Political Engagement (CPE); President Joe DeMartin ’21 remarked on being proud of “the commitment and hard work of our Davidson Votes team and volunteers” while also connecting Davidson’s historic turnout to that reflected throughout the country.

The outcome of an 89 percent turnout rate for students is even more impressive when one considers that Davidson Votes is a first year initiative and that the 2020 election was its first ever campaign as a brand new CPE-led organization. Tommy Cromie ’22, one of the leaders of Davidson Votes, commented on why Davidson Votes was able to be so successful in the middle of a pandemic.

“The energy on campus and across the country certainly fed into the high turnout,” he said. “The polarizing presidential election, as well as a high stakes Senate race here in North Carolina, contributed to higher turnout among students who may otherwise have been on the fence about participating.”

The Davidson Votes initiative managed to conjure up so much enthusiasm for its cause by employing a vast network of volunteers and campus organizations to help register voters. With nearly 70 volunteers and partnerships with Davidson Athletics, the Tau Omicron Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, and The Davidsonian, Davidson Votes was able to not only increase public consciousness on the issue of voting, but also offer a variety of ways to do so during the pandemic.

Before even the start of the fall semester, Davidson Votes started working with Athletic Director Chris Clunie ’06 and other Athletics staff in order to figure out methods of reaching more students. Carrie Heyl, Assistant Director of Ticketing, worked to make sure every student could get free stamps to mail in their ballots. 

Students were able to register at any of the various student-led registration tables across campus, whether just outside of Union or on their way to get COVID tested. One of the students who worked on these registration tables, Ty Cryan ’24, discussed his experience registering many first-time voters.  While he “knew that college students traditionally did not turn out to vote at the same rates as other age groups,” he said he knew that volunteering for the Davidson Votes initiative was just one of many important steps in changing that.

After registration, students had a plethora of choices to vote, from requesting a mail-in ballot to early voting or going in-person on election day. According to Davidson’s Center for Political Engagement, 44.6 percent of students casted their ballot by mail, 41.9 percent voted during One Stop Early Voting, and 13.5 percent voted in-person on Election Day. 

With the Davidson Votes initiative providing COVID-safe transportation to and from Early Voting at Cornelius Town Hall and Election Day Voting at Davidson K-8, it was completely possible for a student to have registered and asked for a mail-in ballot at a registration table only then to vote early using Davidson transportation creating as Ty Cryan ‘24 indicated, a completely intra-campus bound and student-led initiative that vastly outperformed expectations.