Student voting numbers decline in local elections

Pamela Steinle

Student voting in local elections earlier this month saw a 72 percent drop in voter turnout. But the steep decline is not necessarily a sign of voter apathy.

This year, 22 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in University precincts, compared to 64 percent last year during the presidential elections.

University precincts include Precinct 1 in Falcon Heights, and Minneapolis Ward 2, Precincts 1 through 8, and Precinct 11.

Eric Carlson, a computer science major, said he didn’t have time to vote this year and wasn’t as motivated to vote in a local election.

One method utilized by campus organizations to increase voter turnout was to pre-register student voters.

University organizations worked with Minnesota YouthVote – a nonpartisan coalition that encourages youth participation in the political process – for the pre-registration process.

“If someone gets registered early, the chances are higher they’ll vote,” said coalition member Andy Pomroy.

This year, YouthVote fell short of its goal to pre-register 1,200 University students.

Only about 250 were actually registered, said YouthVote organizer Michelle Rosier.

“We quickly learned that it wasn’t as easy in a local election year as it is in a year when people know what elections are happening,” Rosier said.

Fifty percent of voters in Minneapolis Ward 2, Precinct 4, used the same-day registration option this election. The precinct contains five of the eight University residential halls.

Last year, approximately 20 percent of voters statewide used the same-day registration option.

Campus percentages such as these indicate students generally use the same-day registration option at a higher rate than other voters, said Kent Kaiser, communications director for Minnesota’s Secretary of State.

The long lines that result from students not pre-registering could negatively affect student’s voting habits, Kaiser said.

“Students are discouraged with lines,” he said. “It’s something you hear from everyone. People don’t like lines.”

Although a non-participant in this year’s elections, Carlson voted in 2000 and was among the 1,665 voters who registered at polling stations near the University.

He arrived at 3 p.m. at the Minnesota Department of Health, and, after seeing the line, considered not voting.

“The line went all the way around the lobby, right out the door,” Carlson said.

He decided to wait in line and vote because he didn’t want to regret not voting in a presidential election.

Pam Steinle welcomes comments at
[email protected]