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Outside of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center. Photo by Joseph Spencer.
Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy

Student voter turnout at UT increased by 20 percent from the 2014 to 2018 midterm elections, according to new survey data from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement.

During the 2018 elections, 36 percent of UT students voted. Earlier that year, efforts to increase student voter registration and voting were prioritized with the launch of the #VolsVote initiative, a coalition of 40 campus and community organizations led by the university’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy. The initiative seeks to increase student voter engagement through voter registration drives, informational events, and workshops.

“This is a remarkable outcome,” said Katie Cahill, associate director of the Baker Center. “Everyone who participated in 2018 should be applauded. This data demonstrates what students can achieve when they roll up their sleeves and get involved.”

The study, which was conducted by the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University, shows that voting rates at participating colleges and universities doubled nationwide compared to the 2014 midterm elections. In 2018, the average institutional voting rate among campuses in the study was 39.1 percent, nearly 20 percentage points higher than 2014’s average turnout rate of 19.7 percent.

The study is based on the voting records of more than 10 million students at more than 1,000 colleges and universities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The IDHE does not receive any information that could individually identify students or how they voted.

For several years, the Baker Center has led the #VolsVote Initiative. In 2017, it started a statewide conference on improving student voter turnout and democratic engagement in Tennessee called the TN Civic Summit, developed voter-education curricula for first-year studies and introductory business courses, and hosted numerous public events related to voting and democracy.

In preparation for Election Day—which falls on November 5 in Knox County this year—the Baker Center will host Tim Smith, award-winning television and documentary executive, for a viewing and discussion of his most recent film, Rigged: The Voter Suppression Playbook, on November 4 from 4 to 6 p.m. A theatrical documentary, the film is narrated by Emmy Award–winning actor Jeffrey Wright and investigates how voter suppression laws in many states make it harder for minority groups and young people to vote.

Students can register to vote in Tennessee at the Tennessee secretary of state website.


Brian Canever (865-974-0937,

Katie Cahill (865-974-8681,