Youth Voter Turnout in Florida Boosted by On-Campus Early Voting Sites, Report Says

This piece was originally published in Miami Herald on August 1, 2019.

What caused a bump in voter turnout among young Floridians in 2018?

An expansion of early-voting sites on college campuses is one likely factor, according to a study funded by a liberal-leaning voter turnout group.

In Florida’s last midterm election, nearly 60,000 people cast early ballots at 12 on-campus polling places that were allowed after a July 2018 legal decision. The ruling struck down a ban on the campus voting sites that began under former Gov. Rick Scott’s administration.

The study, written by University of Florida political scientist Daniel Smith and funded by the New Jersey-based Andrew Goodman Foundation, found that 56% of early voters at the campus sites were between 18 and 29. That’s a higher percentage than at non-campus early voting locations, where voters aged 18 to 29 made up less than 10% of the votes cast. The study was published Tuesday.

The data also show that turnout across the state in 2018 for voters up to age 29 increased over turnout in 2016, a presidential election year.

“What’s important to show in the report is that early in-person voting really did allow younger voters to have an opportunity to make their voice heard,” Smith said.

He cautioned, though, that the increased turnout in 2018 may be a “novelty effect” and campus turnout may fall as the excitement wears off.

The ruling that allowed the on-campus voting sites was in response to a lawsuit filed in the spring of 2018 by the League of Women Voters of Florida, the Andrew Goodman Foundation and individual student plaintiffs at UF. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled that a 2014 decision by the Florida Division of Elections saying that on-campus buildings could not be used for early voting had incorrectly interpreted Florida’s early voting law.