While we wait on election officials around the national to do their job and count every vote, and it will be months before we have a final sense of nationwide and youth turnout around the country, there are two early things we can take away from this election.
First, that young people and students made their voices heard in record numbers. It will be some time before we know the exact turnout rate among eligible young people nationwide, or on college campuses around the country, but early data from battleground states indicates that turnout could be close to 10 percentage points higher than in 2016. A campus precinct in Florida hit over 100% turnout. In Georgia, where margins are razor thin, youth made up at least 21 percent of the electorate, a number that nearly matches the percentage of eligible young voters in the electorate. At this point, we don’t know the results of the election, but we do know that students and young Americans rocked the vote, despite the added challenges to voting as student or young person amidst the pandemic.
Second, that efforts must be made to make permanent many of the changes that drove the highest nationwide turnout since 1900 possible. While the COVID-19 pandemic was the impetuous for a large increase in access to mail-in and absentee voting for Americans, it’s clear that expanded early and mail-in voting should be here to say. At least 100 million Americans voted early or by mail, and that increase in non-election day voting could have played a role in an election day that ran more smoothly than many might have feared. Reforms like additional early voting, no-excuse absentee ballots, and increased access to ballot return options should be made permanent for all elections.