Voter turnout in the election for the 2020-2021 Undergraduate Government of Boston College presidential election was higher than it’s been in years, reaching the 30 percent threshold for the first time since 2015, at 32 percent. There was a 6 percentage point increase in turnout from last year, although twice as many teams competed in this election.
The Elections Committee (EC) did not respond when asked why turnout has been low in recent years and whether it is working to raise turnout. The EC also did not provide voter demographics for school and year for the 2020 election when asked.
Elections turnout over the past four years has been low compared to previous elections, not climbing higher than the 29 percent turnout in 2018.
Voter turnout in UGBC elections used to be higher, though. Between 2012 and 2015, turnout never dropped below 34 percent—three percentage points higher than this year’s election with four teams running—and was as high as 48 percent in 2014. The 2014 election featured two teams and was nearly uncontested, as the EC extended the filing deadline to prevent the eventual winning team from running unopposed.
Before the 2014 election, the EC instituted a major change to presidential campaigning, shortening the campaigning season from two weeks to one week, and moving the election from late March to February so as to give more transition time between administrations and lower the toll campaigning takes on students. UGBC said at the time that the earlier campaign timeline may have been the reason only one team originally filed to run.
While the 2014 election had the highest voter turnout in the past eight elections, turnout has declined since then.
In 2012, voter turnout was roughly 42 percent of the undergraduate population, falling to 34 percent in 2013 before reaching 48 percent in 2014 as a record 4,332 students voted. In 2015, 37 percent of students voted, but turnout would drop to 28 percent in 2016, and since then fewer than one-third of students have voted in each UGBC executive election. Twenty-six percent of students voted in 2017, 29 percent voted in 2018, and 26 percent voted in 2019.
The turnout of recent years, while lower compared to the beginning of the decade, is still higher than it’s been in the past. In 2001, turnout in the presidential election was 23 percent, and in 2002, that number dropped to 14 percent. Voting in these elections, however, was done in person and not online, and the EC reported problems working with UGBC to market voting times and places.
Featured Graphic by Meegan Minahan / Heights Editor