Early voting data shows low turnout among college students in Burlington

Despite efforts from the city to increase voter turnout in Burlington, fewer ballots have been received from student-populated wards, indicating that less students are voting than other community members.

According to an Oct. 8  New York Times article, in the last election in 2016, less than half of Americans ages 18-29 voted, more than 15% lower than the overall turnout.

UVM’s undergraduate voting rate is below the national college student voting average at just 42.8%, according to a study done by the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Education. 

Amy Bovee, the assistant city clerk for the City of Burlington who runs the city’s election said students can vote in Vermont or in their home state for the Nov. 3 election.

Bovee said as of Oct. 22, only 2.89% of ballots from Ward 8, the “student ward” of Burlington, have been received, the lowest percentage in all eight wards.

“To put that in perspective, if all of the wards had an even amount of ballots turned in, it would be 12.5% per ward.” she said. “That probably indicates that we’ve had fewer students voting so far.” 

Although student voting numbers seem to remain low, more people in Burlington are voting early than ever before.

“We’ve broken kind of all records of the numbers of early ballots that we’ve received,” she said. “We’ve still got just under two weeks to go, so I expect that number will continue to climb.” 

As of Oct. 21, the city received over 11,000 ballots in total. In the past, Bovee said that the most early ballots she had seen was around 6,000. 

Students who are voting in Burlington can vote absentee using their local address or can vote in-person on election day, Bovee said.  

“The quickest and easiest way for folks to register to vote is to do so online,” Bovee said. “Students basically just fill in their name, date of birth, ID information, and then can register that way pretty quickly and easily.” 

Once a student is registered to vote, they automatically get mailed a ballot. If students don’t receive a ballot with enough time to mail it back, they can vote on Election Day in person, and will also have the opportunity to register to vote in-person on Election Day. 

Alternatively, students that requested absentee ballots can turn in their ballots at the City Clerk’s office in the Burlington City Hall on Church Street or in drop-boxes throughout Burlington on Election Day. 

All polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 3, Bovee said. 

Students are encouraged to turn in their ballots early this election for COVID-19 safety precautions at the polls and to keep voters and election workers safe. 

This year, Vermonters can vote in 11 different races, including the presidential election and state officials to represent them in the state House of Representatives and Senate.

Positions that are up for grab on the ballot other than the presidential election and Congressional Representative are that of Vermont Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State Treasurer, Secretary of State, Auditor of Accounts, Attorney General, State Senators, State Representatives, High Bailiff and Justice of the Peace.