In order to make a case that you need a voting site on campus, it’s important to understand how effective (or not) existing voting options are at serving student voters. It’s also helpful to familiarize yourself with the voting habits of your campus population. One easy way to get a lot of really useful data? Sign up for, or utilize, your college or university’s National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) report to learn more about your students’ registration and turnout rates.   

The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE - pronounced “N-Solve”) is a study done by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University. It’s a free study that helps colleges and universities get information about their students’ registration and voting rates. NSLVE reports are a great way to see progress and changes in voter registration and voter turnout that can help you analyze what works on your campus to get your peers engaged. For example, if you compare your NSLVE reports from an election before getting an on-campus voting site to the NSLVE report after and there is a large increase, that information is useful in making a case to keep the polling location for future elections. Not sure if your campus is participating in NSLVE or want to join this free study? Check out the previous links, or reach out to the IDHE team directly

As you’re assessing the current voting sites serving students, consider the following questions: 

  • Is your campus more commuter, residential, or in-between? 
  • Are a significant number of students registered to vote at their campus address? (Check your NSLVE report). Depending on your student population and their voting access needs you can determine if and what type of on-campus voting site will be most beneficial.
  • Is early voting or absentee in-person voting available in your jurisdiction? If so, where do students need to go to cast that type of ballot?
  • If your state has early voting, how far/close are the early voting sites to your campus? Can students walk? If so, is there a sidewalk the whole way? Do they need transportation to access the voting site? Is public transportation an option? Does your institution provide accessible transportation to existing voting sites?
  • How far/close are the Election Day voting sites to your campus? Can students walk? If so, is there a sidewalk the whole way? Do they need transportation to access the Election Day voting site? Is public transportation an option? Does your institution provide accessible transportation to existing voting sites?
  • What are the operating hours of current voting sites serving students? When are lines the longest?

Have any issues been reported from students about the voting sites in recent elections? Have students been turned away from voting? Why? You can usually find reports on provisional ballots cast by voting site on the websites of your local or state election officials. This is a good place to identify if there is an abnormal number of voters at student-heavy voting sites experiencing problems casting a regular ballot.