Olivia Silvey ’25
Trinity College was recently recognized by the nonpartisan publication Washington Monthly as one of the best colleges for student voting in the U.S., as told by President Joanne Berger-Sweeney in an email reminder about National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 20th. Trinity joins a wide range of schools across the country on this list for a number of reasons.
According to Washington Monthly, schools must have checked a few boxes: first, they had to submit both 2020 and 2022 action plans to the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. This group, established in 2016, aims to increase voter participation (among other items) specifically in higher education. The
Challenge requires schools to establish a campus-wide voting coalition made up of various members of the campus community such as representatives from academic affairs, student affairs, faculty, senior administration, and the student body.
Trinity’s coalition comes in the form of TrinVotes, a nonpartisan initiative that aims to “make the voting process more accessible and to promote civic engagement among students.” Through the website, students can register to vote, check the status of their ballot, learn more about the voting process, and learn more about what specifically Trinity has done to increase voting participation on campus. Currently TrinVotes is looking for more members and support from students, staff from the Office of Student and Community Life, and faculty with specific interests in civic engagement and voting.
Once schools have established their coalitions like TrinVotes, they can then create and submit action plans that “describe [their] institution’s strategy to increase student voting rates and help students form the habits of active and engaged citizenship.” The plans could include the creation of certain committees and advocacy groups, how said groups will engage certain organizations and departments on campus, and what kinds of events the campus will host to align with the overall mission of increasing students’ civic engagement.
These action plans must also include said school’s participation in the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) from Tufts University which calculates voting registration and rates specific to each campus. Trinity’s 2020 NSLVE report is publicly available on the website and reported in Berger-Sweeney’s email announcement.
According to this report, which includes data from 2016, 2018, and 2020, Trinity had a voting rate of 68% in 2020 which is 2% higher than the average of all institutions in the study. Trinity’s registration rate, voting rate of registered students, and overall voting rate have increased from 2016 to continued from page one 2020. (All three statistics dropped in 2018 which is likely attributed to the lack of a presidential election.) The 2020 report was released in October 2021, which most likely means NSLVE will release this year’s report next fall.
While Trinity is not recognized on the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge website, Washington Monthly included Trinity in its list of best colleges for student voting, simultaneously acknowledging Trinity’s registration rate as above 85%. In the article by Rob Wolfe, Washington Monthly notes the diversity of schools on the list, “This year’s honor roll includes some conventionally prestigious schools— Harvard, Princeton—but other U.S. News & World Report heavyweights, such as Columbia University in New York, are missing. Meanwhile, the list is replete with colleges unheralded outside their states and regions.”
Additionally, the list boasts 144 public institutions, 36 community colleges, and five Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). However, in total, only 230 out of 850 considered schools made it to the honor roll, which is about 27%. Wolfe makes the point that while it looks like youth voting turnout will be stronger than ever in 2022, that doesn’t mean this generation can, or should, be taken for granted. According to Wolfe, this only stresses the importance of college campuses in terms of voting registration and participation.