|ADP members Donna Artho and Charles Smith (right) register students to vote for the Nov. 4 election in the Lowman Student Center Mall Area. The ADP will have the registration table set up on three more days—Sept. 29, Sept. 30 and Oct. 2—before the Oct. 6 deadline.|
With poll numbers for presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama vacillating daily, both candidates are looking for anything that might give them the edge to win America’s highest office.
And according to many pundits, advisers and others in the political “know,” they may have to look no further than a college campus.
Time magazine has called this the “Year of the Youth Vote,” and both candidates have made no secret of actively pursuing a group that seems to have become energized in the 2008 election, be it because of the issues or the historic nature of having the option to choose between America’s first female vice president or America’s first black president.
Since Sept. 9, SHSU’s American Democracy Project has been helping college students to “Rock the Vote” by registering those who have not already done so.
Tables will be in the Lowman Student Center Mall Area on Monday (Sept. 29), from 2-4 p.m.; Tuesday (Sept. 30), from 10 a.m. to noon; and Thursday (Oct. 2), from noon to 2 p.m., giving students three more opportunities to sign up on campus before voter registration closes, which is 30 days before an election, according to Texas law.
“I have been impressed by the interest and enthusiasm that students have in the presidential candidates and campaigns,” said Stacy Ulbig, ADP member and assistant professor of political science. “I have seen many Barack Obama T-shirts around campus and a good number of McCain bumper stickers in the parking lots.”
In the first three days of holding registration on campus, Ulbig said the ADP enlisted 120 students, and while they had anticipated higher numbers, the student Democrat organization has also been holding registration and “their numbers were much healthier.”
This enthusiasm seems to be a national trend for a group that has been notoriously underrepresented on voting day, generally voting at lower rates than any other age group.
In the 2000 election, only 36 percent of young voters cast a ballot, rising to 47 percent voting in the 2004 election, according to The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, a group that studies youth political engagement extensively. In Texas, those percentages were even lower, at 32 percent and 39 percent, respectively.
During midterm-election years (non-presidential years), the numbers of young voters turning out to vote nationwide didn’t reach 20 percent.
“The youth vote could have a very large impact,” Ulbig said. “The youth voter pool is enormous.
“The group ‘Rock the Vote’ estimates that there are about 44 million young voters,” Ulbig said, adding that she thinks those figures include 18-29 year-olds. “That means that about one in five eligible voters is a ‘young voter.’”
This large, untapped voter pool is what both McCain and Obama have been courting by utilizing newer, electronic methods to woo the age group, which has apparently worked.
MTV reported that primary figures on Super Tuesday saw triple and even quadruple the numbers of past youth voters and even attributed under-30 voters for Obama’s Missouri and Connecticut wins.
But while the youth vote may have helped Obama beat rival Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, the increased attention doesn’t necessarily favor one party over another, Ulbig said.
“Many times there is a perception that young voters will favor the Democratic candidate. In reality, this varies from election to election and state to state,” she said. “In the last presidential election, for example, 62 percent of young Texan voters favored the Republican candidate, George W. Bush.
“There has been a lot of media attention to the ways that Barack Obama has mobilized and energized young people in the election so far, but John McCain does well among young voters in some key states as well, and his campaign is attempting to reach out to young voters more,” she said. “As long as young people stay interested and remember to go to the polls in November, they can definitely have an impact on this election.”
Students who miss the on-campus registration have until Oct. 6 to sign up, either at the Walker County Annex, located at 1301 Sam Houston Ave., Suite 114; online, thought the Texas Secretary Of State Office Web site, at http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/index.shtml; or by contacting Ulbig at email@example.com or 936.294.1468.
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