Many vote at U precincts

by Stephanie Kudrle

The nation has four more years to get young people excited to vote, but University students have set a high bar for young voter turnout.

Although the national turnout for 18- to 24-year-old voters was not as high as experts anticipated, numbers were high in the two University precincts.

“These numbers suggest that University students are

at the forefront of voter turnout,” said Larry Jacobs, University political science professor and political analyst. “It also shows the campaign to encourage students to vote made a difference.”

At Centennial Hall, which was the voting location for students living in the superblock’s four residence halls, 1,611 out of the 2,946 residents cast their ballots on Election Day, for a 55 percent turnout.

The superblock precinct was the one location around the University where only students were eligible to vote.

At Coffman Union, 2,113 people turned out to vote. A turnout percentage is difficult to estimate because the city does not know how many eligible voters actually live in that area, said Susanne Griffin, director of Elections and Voter Registration for Minneapolis.

Students also voted in various other locations around the Twin Cities and with absentee ballots. No official number of absentee ballots cast by students is available. But the turnout numbers could actually be higher than current numbers show if those voters were counted, said Mike Dean, grassroots coordinator for the University Legislative Network.

Dean said a lot of absentee voters came to his booth at Coffman Union on Election Day and asked for “I VOTED” stickers.

“It was a badge of pride for many people on campus,” he said. “Everyone wanted to be out there showing they voted.”

Jacobs said the preliminary numbers could mean the 18- to 24-year-old turnout in Minnesota was higher than the 45 percent recorded in 2000.

“I view this as really positive,” he said. “And I think it reflects the extraordinary efforts to get students involved this year.”

He said the high turnout sends a message to politicians that students’ votes make a difference and can make or break a campaign.

A few factors most likely led to the high turnout on campus, he said.

Students are generally more focused and more educated than 18- to 24-year-olds not in school, Jacobs said, and election visibility was high on campus this year.

Also, Minnesota had the highest voter turnout in the country at 77 percent, Jacobs said.

“There is something about Minnesota where there is a culture of obligation and responsibility,” he said.

But obligation and responsibility did not necessarily translate to large preregistration numbers. Many students put off registering to vote until the Nov. 2 deadline.

Although voters could have preregistered months beforehand, approximately half of those who voted in the University’s two precincts took advantage of a Minnesota law that allows same-day voter registration.

The numbers of same-day voter registrations were lower at polling locations outside the University, where many students also voted.

Despite the high same-day registration numbers, Dean said, preregistration drives were successful because they helped alleviate stress for some on Election Day.

Dean said that while young voter turnout was a disappointment nationally, the University’s high number of student votes was encouraging.

“We had done so many different activities to get students engaged in the election,” he said. “I think that had a carry-over effect to voting.”