On-campus voting at UCLA increased by more than 300% between 2014 and 2018, according to a report by The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE). NSLVE is a project of the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University.

“When students are registered to vote and know how the process works, they turn out to the polls,” said Elisa Chang, grad student and CALPIRG’s New Voters Project Coordinator. “That’s why we worked in 2018 to make sure that every student on campus had the opportunity to register to vote and knew how to vote come election day.”

Along with coalition partners like student government, CALPIRG helped 6,000 students register to vote in 2018 and made more than half a million text, phone, and face-to-face reminders to help students find their polling place and get the polls.

Nationally, the Institute of Democracy and Higher Education found that college and university student turnout more than doubled between 2014 and 2018 with 40% of eligible students voting versus 19% in 2014. This 21 percentage point increase in turnout on college and universities across the country compares to 13.6% for all Americans.

This news comes as California is working to make voting even easier in 2020. On Tuesday, Governor Newsom signed a bill, SB 72 (Umberg), that would require all precinct polling locations to offer same-day voter registration. In 2018, most counties only offered one same-day voter registration location in the entire county. CALPIRG Students signed on 220 UC student leaders in support of the bill and testified in Sacramento for its passage.

Elisa Chang, CALPIRG student leader and New Voters Project State Lead, issued the following statement:

“Same-day voter registration in California will make our democracy stronger and more accessible. Young people continue to be underrepresented in the political process and at the polls. Numerous studies have determined that voting is habit-forming, and young people who vote are more likely to become life-long voters. That’s why CALPIRG Students has run the New Voters Project, a non-partisan voter registration and get-out-the-vote campaign on college campuses across the state. 

“Every Election Day our volunteers are approached by college students who are eligible to vote and want to vote, but aren’t registered, aren’t registered at their current address, or didn’t get their vote-by-mail ballot sent to the right location — and don’t realize it until it’s too late. This bill would enable those young people to cast a ballot on Election Day.”  

Elisa Chang (top left, behind the table) is a campaign coordinator with CALPIRG Students’ New Voter Project, which helped registered over 6,000 students to vote and made over 500,000 non-partisan get out the vote contacts leading up to the 2018 election. Elisa led the New Voters Project at UC Riverside in 2018. 

Student leaders are working with a broad vote coalition this term to build off of their 2018 work. This past month, CALPIRG organized a press conference on campus to release the NSLVE report, joining over 4,000 groups around the country to celebrate the right to vote. The vote coalition is working to continue the momentum from this event to help even more students turn out to the polls in 2020. 

Campus and community members interested in joining the BruinsVote Coalition should contact Elisa Chang at elisachang2@gmail.com

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CALPIRG Students’ voter registration and turnout effort is part of its New Voters Project campaign, one of the largest nonpartisan youth voter mobilization efforts in the country. CALPIRGs’ New Voters Project has run peer-to-peer student voter mobilization drives to turn out the youth vote on college campuses for more than 30 years. Its philosophy is that the full participation of young people in the political process is essential to a truly representative, vibrant democracy. The New Voters Project does not endorse, either explicitly or implicitly, a political candidate or political party for elected office.


Part of Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE, https://idhe.tufts.edu) is an applied research center focused on college and university student political learning and engagement in democracy. IDHE researchers study student voting, equity, campus conditions for student political learning, discourse, participation, and agency for underrepresented and marginalized students. IDHE’s signature initiative, the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, or NSLVE, (https://idhe.tufts.edu/nslve) is a service to colleges and universities that provides participating institutions with tailored reports of their students’ voting rates. Launched in 2013 with 250 campuses, the study now serves more than 1,000 institutions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.