No, UCSD’s voter turnout was not 78 percent

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A survey from NextGen America claimed that UC San Diego’s voter turnout on Election Day was 78 percent, as reported by Teen Vogue. However, while student turnout did increase at UCSD this year, post-election reports from the San Diego Registrar of Voters Office show that turnout at campus precincts on November 6 was approximately 18.25 percent.

NextGen America, who conducted the survey, is a national organization that ran a campaign to encourage mass youth voter registration for the 2018 election. Their survey polled raw votes from Precinct 120060, or the Sixth College polling site, including early votes, absentee votes, and Election Day ballots based on data from the San Diego Registrar of Voters. In their methodology, they collected data on early voting and absentee ballots from state and county-level updates provided to their data vendor, TargetSmart, along with a team of volunteers to gather information at the targeted polling site.

Their survey found that in the 2014 midterm, out of the 600 registered voters from this precinct, only 80 ballots were cast, resulting in a 13.3 percent turnout rate for Sixth College in 2014. They also claim that for the 2018 midterm, 285 students voted, resulting in a 78.3 percent turnout rate. However, 2018 data from the San Diego Registrar of Voters show that 97 ballots were cast on Election Day in the Sixth College precinct, resulting in a turnout of 20.9 percent for that polling site.

While it is unclear how the 78 percent statistic arose, it is possible that an oversight in calculations was made in collecting ballot data. It is also unclear why the report focuses on the Sixth College precinct given that UCSD had a total of eight campus precincts on Election Day.

An interactive map from inewsource.org displays data from election night for the 49th Congressional District race, showing that the turnout for Eleanor Roosevelt College’s polling site was 6.9 percent, Warren College was 10.5 percent, Revelle College was 11 percent, Muir College was 19 percent, The Village was 20.2 percent, Sixth College was 20.5 percent, and Marshall College was 21.2 percent. The average voter turnout among these precincts was 16.17 percent.

Despite the questionable statistic, UCSD saw a significant increase in voter turnout this year.

The 2014 midterm turnout rate for UCSD was 6.9 percent, according to NBC San Diego. With the 2018 turnout rate of 18.25 percent, voter turnout for UCSD increased by approximately 164 percent.

Voter turnout among college students has historically seen low participation rates, and midterm elections typically see less turnout compared to presidential elections. In the 2014 midterm, voter turnout among college institutions was 18.1 percent, with four-year public universities reaching 18.6 percent. In 2018, college student turnout was 31 percent. While voter turnout at UCSD may not have been 78 percent, an 11-point increase still points to a rise in student turnout, following a nationwide trend of historic turnout among young people in the 2018 election. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, this is the highest turnout rate for that demographic in the past 25 years.

For the UC system, voter turnout rates were “so unexpectedly high” that more polling sites had to be set up at UC Santa Cruz and UC Riverside. At UC Riverside, polling sites used up all 1,000 provisional ballots provided for that precinct. After depleting the countywide supply, students had to vote through an electronic ballot.

Anabel King is the Assistant Managing Editor for The Triton. You can follow her at @anabelkingg.

Update: A previous version of this article linked to primary results data and was updated on November 9, 2018 at 5:38 p.m. to link to the county’s live results page.

Correction: This article has been corrected as November 9, 2018 8:07 p.m. with figures from the San Diego Registrar of Voters. The total campus turnout percentage is calculated using the mean of campus precinct turnout as of November 9, 2018. These figures will continue to fluctuate until official results are certified  later this year. A previous version of the article can be viewed here.