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University to release report detailing student voter registration, turnout information

| Tuesday, November 5, 2019

As voters across America go to the polls for numerous local elections, the Notre Dame student body will have the opportunity to learn about its own voter registration and participation rates. In the coming week, the University will release a report detailing the voting data of Notre Dame students starting with the 2016 elections.

“The data will be broken down very specifically for Notre Dame, including by age, gender and major,” said senior Sheila Gregory, a co-chair of the NDVotes Initiative.

NDVotes, a nonpartisan student group within the Center for Social Concerns (CSC) that aims to promote voter education and registration, will use the report to better target their programs and increase student civic participation.

The report will help NDVotes “work on ways to engage the University basically from the top-down, to see how we can help the CSC but also the President’s Office and any interested departments,” Gregory said.

“It is really what has been missing for us, since it will help us see whether efforts like TurboVote and emails are actually having an effect,” she said.

The University plans to publish a press release next week about the report and how to access it, Gregory said, and the report will also be available through the CSC website. This type of data has never been available for the Notre Dame student body before, and it will provide a valuable resource to students and academic departments for future research and program implementation, she said.

The report was compiled by the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE), a non-partisan service that aggregates student registration and turnout data, run by Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) in national elections. Launched in 2013, NSLVE boasts over 10 million college student voting records in federal elections since 2012.

Notre Dame’s data, along with data from over 1,000 other colleges participating in the NSLVE program, will also help inform national studies of college student voter turnout and political participation. According to the NSLVE website, “studying the voting rates of students provides an important measure that can catalyze improvements in academic programs and co-curricular experiences.”

NSLVE works with the National Student Clearinghouse to match publicly available voter registration and turnout data with enrollment records at participating universities. The report anonymizes the data, and NSLVE never learns the names, party affiliations or individual votes of students. The report on Notre Dame’s specific data also aims to draw students’ attentions to the issue of voter turnout in the run-up to a presidential election year. While Notre Dame’s participation rates have been respectable, Gregory said she thinks they can continue to improve.

“At Notre Dame, we always strive to be excellent,” she said. “So why should voting be excluded from that?”

Nancy Thomas, director of IDHE at Tufts University, will be visiting Notre Dame’s campus Wednesday through Friday to participate in several events with students and faculty. Thomas will be speaking at a “Pizza, Pop and Politics” event Wednesday at 5 p.m. in the Geddes Hall Coffee House regarding the importance of the youth vote. Gregory encourages all interested students to attend.

“It is important for students to see that we are committed to getting an engaged student body, but also that it starts with them,” Gregory said.

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