2020 voting report: By the numbers

The University of Pennsylvania’s record voting turnout—in a pandemic, no less—coincides with a campus voting challenge award.

Students bend over to fill out paperwork on a table
Students sign up on National Voter Registration Day in September 2021. 

The numbers are in. University of Pennsylvania students voted in unprecedented numbers during the 2020 presidential election, achieving record-high voter turnout during a semester taught fully online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The data were reported in the 2020 Campus National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) Report issued by the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University. 

This data might not come as a surprise for members of Penn Leads the Vote (PLTV), who co-wrote an action plan outlining steps to foster student civic engagement in 2020 and 2021. The plan recently won the ALL IN Democracy Challenge 2021 Best Action Plan Award for the Pennsylvania Campus Voting Challenge for a four-year institution. 

PLTV, which operates from the Netter Center for Community Partnerships and works in partnership with the Office of Government and Community Affairs, is a non-partisan voter-engagement program. It’s currently co-directed by Harrison Feinman of Los Angeles and Eva Gonzalez of Ardmore, Pennsylvania, both seniors majoring in political science. 

The award was a great testament to both Penn Leads the Vote and Penn students, says Feinman. “The sum really is greater than its parts, and we were all able to pull together and work as an entire campus to improve civic engagement.” 

Here are the results:

    • 77%

      The number of eligible Penn students who voted in the 2020 presidential general election, a 9.2% increase from the 2016 election, and a 23.1% increase from the 2018 midterm election

    • 67%

      The turnout rate for the general population

    • 66%

      The national college student voter turnout rate

    • 89%

      The rate of registered Penn students who voted on Election Day 2020, compared to 73% in 2016 and 64% in 2018

    • 100%

      Penn’s eligible voter registration goal for 2028, included in the Action Plan