Students urged to vote despite increase in turnout

When history junior Andrew Larson turned up at a polling place in Inver Grove Heights on Sept. 12, he was joined by only one primary voter.

Noah Seligman, a journalism and political science senior, voted in the primaries differently, casting an absentee ballot via mail.

Although these students voted, the younger voting demographic is notorious for low turnouts in presidential and midterm elections.

Seligman, the University DFL president and former Minnesota Daily sports reporter, said that that reputation isn’t fully deserved.

“Candidates say that we didn’t vote,” he said. “The last election, we kept pace with the current turnout.”

Seligman’s correct, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement Web site, which researches the voting trends and political engagement of 15- to 25-year-olds.

The Web site stated in 2005 that the percentage of total votes has declined since 1972 among 18- to 24-year-olds, but turnout has increased in the past two presidential elections.

This age group saw the greatest percentage increase in the 2004 election of 47 percent turnout, up from 36 percent in 2000.

Even with an increase in recent turnout, the voter turnout among 18- to 24-year-olds remains the lowest of all groups.

Part of the problem is that this age group tends to move more often and needs to re-register to vote, said University political science professor Kathryn Pearson.

She said another reason for low participation is students’ lack of interest.

“They don’t have a habit of voting yet,” Pearson said. “They haven’t done it before and are less likely to see the effect of government on their lives.”

Seligman said the effort students must make to eventually get to the polls is “the cost of voting.” That’s why he chose absentee ballot.

“It’s a great way to increase turnout,” he said. “Absentee voting reduces the cost to the voter. It’s a much simpler process.”

Joe Mullenbach, a mechanical engineering sophomore and the president of Democracy Matters, a nonpartisan student organization, said voting is the No. 1 way to effect change.

“It’s our country,” he said. “If we don’t get involved then those (changes) aren’t going to happen.”

Larson, president of Students for a Conservative Voice and Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, said that in order to have a voice, people must vote.

“It’s essential if you care about the direction of where the country goes,” he said.

In terms of voting and voter turnout by young adults, Pearson said Minnesota is unique.

“Minnesota has same-day registration,” she said. “It makes a huge difference.”

In the 2004 presidential election, Minnesota had the highest voter turnout among 18- to 24-year-olds in the nation.

“In Minnesota, candidates, parties and organizations focus more on the youths,” Pearson said.

Alan Fine, Republican candidate for the Minnesota’s 5th U.S. Congressional District, attempted to do just that in September.

Fine, a Carlson School of Management senior lecturer, held “Building a Bridge,” a five-hour forum at Coffman Union to speak to students about current issues and involvement.

“There are a lot (of students) not even thinking about the election,” Fine said. “I’m not sure students think it’s important (to vote), and they should.”

He said it’s not an issue with all students, but he “would like to see more political involvement.”

Political candidates might be showing effort, but Larson thinks they could still be doing more to woo young voters.

“Both (parties) could do better,” Larson said. “The Republicans unfairly write off the youths vote and the Democrats take it for granted.”

Mullenbach said there is a lack of interest from the candidates and a misconception of the youths voter demographic.

“There is a general preconceived notion that college students are apathetic,” he said.

Freelance Editor Yelena

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