The University of Northern Iowa posted the highest voter turnout of any public university in the state in 2018, validating a concerted effort by faculty and students to increase turnout on campus.
UNI’s voter turnout rate was 46.2% in 2018, a 16.5 percentage point increase from 2014 fueled by the #PanthersVote initiative, a nonpartisan, unified effort with the Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG) and University chapter of the American Democracy Project and the Campus Election Engagement Project.
The initiative helped UNI win the public university section of the 2018 Iowa Voting Challenge, a part of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge that recognizes colleges and universities for their commitment to increasing student voting rates. UNI was among 14 Iowa colleges that participated.
“UNI has a tradition of being a high turnout campus,” said Justin Holmes, an associate professor in UNI’s political science department. “In 2018, our chapter of the American Democracy Project decided to create a program of voter engagement to coordinate voter registration and turnout initiatives already happening on campus.”
The group had a multipronged strategy, including coordinating a variety of organizations under the #PanthersVote brand and using this common brand to get students registered to vote. The effort was driven by voter drives, community presentations, social media campaigns and classroom visits.
UNI’s 2018 voter turnout rate was five percentage points greater than the national average across universities. The voting rate of registered students was almost 60% in 2018, up more than 20 percentage points from 2014.
The numbers showcase a definitive trait in the student body.
“UNI students care. Our record shows that UNI students care about voting,” said UNI alumna Brenna Wolfe, who graduated in 2019 and was one of the leaders of the #PanthersVote initiative while she was on campus.
UNI is currently preparing for the caucuses. #PanthersVote will be doing a voter registration campaign, as well as a mock caucus the week before the Iowa caucus, so students can learn about the mechanics of caucusing for both parties.