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MIT Voter Turnout Above Average

By Beckett W. Sterner


According to Cambridge voting history data and an informal poll, about 63 percent of MIT students voted this election, 12 percentage points more than the national turnout for voters aged 18-29.

The City of Cambridge turnout was 87.5 percent of active voters (having recently registered or answered the Cambridge census in the last year), said Teresa Neighbor, executive director of the Cambridge Election Commission. About 60 percent of Harvard students voted, according to The Harvard Crimson.

Contrary to early indications from exit polls, the turnout of the 18-29 bloc did increase from 2000. According to a later analysis done by the Center for Information & Research on Civil Learning & Engagement, about 28 percent more voters ages 18-29 turned out for this election than in 2000, a rise of 4.6 million to a total of 20.9 million.

Since there was a similar rise in the total number of people who voted, however, the age group’s share of the electorate stayed constant at 18.4 percent.

The 18-29 age group was the only one that split for Kerry in the election, voting 54 to 44 percent against Bush.

The age group has declined from 20.7 percent of the electorate in 1992, but its turnout has risen from a low of 35 percent in 1996.

About 31 percent unregistered

According to an informal poll of 122 MIT graduate and undergraduate students, about 31 percent are not registered to vote. (The survey did not count non-U.S. citizens.)

The poll showed that 59 percent voted, and 20 percent were registered (not necessarily in Cambridge), but did not vote.

Based on data from the Cambridge Election Commission, of the students registered to vote in Massachusetts with a listed address that matched MIT records, 67 percent voted in 2004. (Taking the average of the two turnout numbers to get 63 percent is a simple way of combining the data.)

Of those registered at an undergraduate dormitory, 62 percent voted (816 total), while 75 percent voted who were registered at a graduate dormitory (464 total).

Citywide totals relatively stable

This year’s turnout in the City of Cambridge was slightly higher than the past four presidential elections.

Of the active voters in the city, 86, 84, 85 and 83 percent voted in 1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000, respectively. This year’s result of 87.5 percent is slightly higher, but the change is much smaller than that of many swing states. When all registered voters are counted, the turnout of 83 percent for 2000 drops to 64.

John Donovan, a spokesperson for the Boston Election Department, said that Boston had seen turnouts higher than 70 percent this year.

“We had a pretty smooth election,” he said, although there were long lines at some polling stations.

Neighbor said that the optical scanning voting machines Cambridge has used since 1996 have been very successful, with only .04 percent of ballots falling foul of machine error this year.