A national student voting organization recently recognized Bowdoin College for having one of the highest student voter turnout rates out of more than 800 institutions across the U.S.

Bowdoin College received a champion award from the All IN Campus Democracy Challenge, tying with Bar Harbor’s College of the Atlantic and the University of Puget Sound in Washington.

The All IN Campus Democracy Challenge is a nonpartisan competition which encourages colleges and universities to turn out the largest number of student voters. Nearly one million students voted in 2020, according to All IN Campus Democracy Challenge data.

About 85% of Bowdoin students voted in the 2020 Presidential election — a roughly 10% increase since 2016. This number was substantially higher than the 66% average rate across all private institutions, according to Tufts University’s National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement.

Bowdoin college also received a platinum seal for getting between 80% and 90% of its student body to vote.

The Bowdoin’s McKeen Center for the Common Good promotes public engagement throughout the college community by encouraging discussions in campus-wide events that address issues of public concern.


“Each year leading up to election day, [the] McKeen Center activates its nonpartisan get-out-to vote effort,” according to the college’s website.

Penelope Mack, a McKeen Fellow for Election Engagement at the Bowdoin College, said they put together a ballot guide that explained how to register and vote and other logistics for new voters.

“We focused a lot of our communications efforts on the first-year class because we knew many of them would be voting for the first time,” Mack said. “We were lucky to have them on campus that semester so we could engage with them in person and answer any questions they had.”

Mack said although she does not have a breakdown of how or where students voted, she assumed many students voted absentee — mainly if they chose to vote in Maine — because only a few students were on campus last fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We also mobilized networks of peer-to-peer communication about registering and voting, having students canvass their friends to make sure everyone was ready for the election,” said Mack.

The national voter turnout among college students jumped to a record high of 66% in the 2020 presidential election from 47% in 2016, according to a report from the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education.

About 97% of the campuses in the study saw an increase in voter turnout in 2020.

While turnout grew across all types of institutions, it was highest at private undergraduate institutions, where student voting rates reached 75% in 2020, an increase of 17% from 2016.


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