Elections in a Pandemic: Looking Back, Looking Ahead (2021-2022)

The U.S. general election in 2020 was like no other, including unprecedented levels of organization and interest across the political spectrum turnout higher than had been seen in a century. This project team analyzed election data to explore the state of youth voting rights and engagement and to identify possible interventions to improve the representation of all Americans in the political system.

Working in sub-teams, the team focused on geographic, information and legal barriers to youth voting. Looking at data on voter turnout near college campuses, the geographic barriers team found that college-age students are less likely to vote if they live on campus, particularly if they are black voters. They also found that the constant mobility of college-age students makes it more difficult for them to vote and that a lack of clear mailing addresses for students living on college campuses can increase the likelihood that a college student’s vote will not be counted. Youth voters also reported being deterred by long lines. 

Team members explored drive thru voting as a means to improve the ease and safety of voting. Currently, drive thru voting in North Carolina is limited only to individuals with specific disabilities. Through voter surveys, the team found that many voters would prefer a drive thru voting option as they would find it easier, safer and would be more willing to wait for longer periods in their car. The team identified several states where it has been used successfully and developed suggested implementation plans for the N.C. State Board of Elections. 

The information barriers team collected data on how misinformation is spread through social media. In one study they found that while most youth voters feel confident that they can identify dis-information, when shown several TikTok videos the vast majority of respondents failed to identify the false video. In response, the team developed a training module to help youth identify dis-information on their own. The team also tested the use of SMS Chatbots to increase voter participation, finding that while the method is likely to increase participation, barriers exist to getting legal access to cell phone numbers for youth voters. 

The legal barriers team found widely varying rejection rates for provisional ballots across different states. In N.C. the team found that provisional ballots are significantly more likely to be rejected for black college age voters. For example, in Durham county a young black voter is 23 times more likely to have a provisional ballot rejected than an older white voter. The team also brought attention to the lack of public information about rejection rates for provisional ballots.  

Based on these findings, the team developed a set of policy recommendations for the N.C. State Board of Elections and partner organizations such as N.C. Voters for Clean Elections and the Andrew Goodman Foundation. 


Summer 2021 – Spring 2022

Team Outputs

“Provisional Rights and Provisional Ballots in a Swing State: Understanding How and Why North Carolina College Students Lose Their Right to Vote, 2008–Present.” Gunther Peck, Ameya Rao, Kathryn Thomas, Delaney Eisen, Miles King, Hannah McKnight and Luhan Yao. 2022. Rutgers University Law Review.

Training to help youth voters recognize disinformation

Data analysis to help document issues with provisional ballots

Best practice recommendations for nonpartisan public officials

See earlier related team, Elections in a Pandemic (2020-2021).


Image: Alicia Medina becomes the 22nd person to register to vote on September 22nd, 2020 at the voter registration tent at the West Campus Bust stop, by Bill Snead/Duke University

Alicia Medina becomes the 22nd person to register to vote on September 22nd, 2020

Team Leaders

  • Gunther Peck, Arts & Sciences-History

/graduate Team Members

  • Emma Dries, Masters of Public Policy
  • Tina Tucker, Political Science-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Delaney Eisen
  • Zahra Hassan
  • Chase Johnson
  • Abigail Kantor
  • Idan Kantor
  • Miles King
  • Ryan Lou
  • Daniel Marshall, Economics (BS)
  • Ryan Mitchell
  • Matthew Mohn
  • Alexandra Ostad, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Matthew Peljovich
  • Ameya Rao
  • Madeleine Reinhard
  • Allison Shi, Statistical Science (BS)
  • Evelyn Shi
  • Kathryn Thomas
  • Zoe Tishaev
  • Luke Vermeer, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Christina Wang
  • Maximilien Wilkey, Political Science (AB)
  • Luhan Yao, Political Science (AB), Visual and Media Studies (AB2)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Deondra Rose, Sanford School of Public Policy

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Damon Circosta, State Board of Elections - North Carolina
  • You Can Vote, North Carolina