Amendments bring students to the polls

Only a small fraction of voters in the University area did not vote on the two amendments.

Amendments bring students to the polls

Brian Arola

 

Minnesota posted a record high in ballots cast on Election Day, though voter turnout across the nation was expected to be lower than in 2008.

Minnesota secretary of state numbers show an estimated 135,000 more votes cast in this election than in 2008. This boosts Minnesota’s historically nation-leading voter turnout rate to about 76 percent.

In the University of Minnesota’s House District 60B, votes cast for president were down from 2008. About 600 fewer voters turned out in the district than four years ago.

In the district, voters cast nearly as many votes for the two amendments on the ballot as they did for president.

Of ballots cast in the district, only about 500 left the marriage amendment question blank while about 800 did the same for voter ID.

The amendments were a major reason for such a good turnout in the state, said David Schultz, a law professor at Hamline University.

“I speculated that perhaps [the amendments] would mobilize young people and liberal Democrats to vote, especially at a time when neither of those groups were really excited by Barack Obama in 2012,” Schultz said.

Republicans put the amendments on the ballot to try energize their base, Schultz said.

“I think there’s evidence that the marriage amendment and the elections amendment really did motivate lots of groups that might not have otherwise come out to vote in Minnesota,” Schultz said.

Schultz said Republicans had reason to believe the voter ID amendment would pass based on results in other states, but on the marriage amendment, he said they misread public opinion.

“I think they thought it was still 2004 and not 2012. They hadn’t realized the shift in public opinion, including in Minnesota, regarding the issue of same-sex marriage,” Schultz said.

 Schultz’s speculations appear to be true around the University. According to the secretary of state’s data, only about 20 percent of District 60B residents voted ‘yes’ on the amendments.

Many University students were motivated to vote by the amendments.

Design freshman Julie Bacon decided to vote in Minnesota rather than Wisconsin because she wanted to vote on the amendments.

Other students ignored the rest of the ballot and only voted on the amendments.

“I’m not voting on anything on the ballot but the marriage amendment,” said biochemistry and physics sophomore Gautam Satishchandan on Election Day. “It’s the only thing that matters to me.”

Despite high turnout in Minnesota, Schultz and other analysts expect the national turnout to be lower than 2008.

Schultz said the reasons why people don’t vote vary. He said some people simply can’t get off work to go vote, and others just don’t see a viable option on the ballot.

“A chunk of society, even in Minnesota, can’t afford to take time off from work to go vote,” he said.

This is most likely to happen to people on shift work or at minimum-wage jobs, he said.