Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Student turnout

Posted By on Wed, Nov 5, 2008 at 12:59 AM

click to enlarge student_vote.jpg

 When I mailed in my absentee ballot to my homestate of Florida two weeks ago, I had no idea how much time was saved by posting my vote. Throughout the day, Tulane University students waited about an hour in front of the Lavin-Bernick Center, Tulane University’s voting location. As I walked by, I was relieved that I had avoided the wait, but I was also encouraged to see so many individuals waiting to perform their civic duties.


 Young voters got a lot of attention in this election. Just like the candidates, we’ll see how they did. 

This election has thrust young voters into the spotlight. Young voters are part of the magical swing number that could decide this election. Barack Obama realized this early, and hired one of the Facebook inventors to help with his campaign. The Internet has been a powerful medium for getting out the vote, or at least the message urging people to get out and vote. Even though younger people are overwhelmingly connected, college voters are notorious for not making it out to the polls. While the turnout at Tulane is encouraging, there is quite a bit of uncertainty as to whether or not students will step away from their computers and step into the voting booth. 


Several student organizations, including the Tulane College Republicans, hosted functions which encouraged students to change their voting precinct to Louisiana in order to ease the voting process. Tulane’s chapter of College Democrats said it re-registered approximately 650 voters for a Louisiana precinct. And while these numbers are encouraging, Louisiana is traditionally a red state. This is why some students were encouraged to maintain their registration in their home precincts, battle ground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida that could use their votes. Personally, I changed my registration back to Florida, because of my concern for the turnout in my home precinct. Many states encouraged their absentee college voters to fill out new, online applications for absentee ballots. Tulane University further expedited this process by offering students free postage for their absentee ballots in the Mail Center. So many had the means to get it done, but so few utilized these resources. According to a Mail Center employee, fewer than 200 students utilized the free service. 


While many students have heeded the message and registered, there is still a high amount of apathy on campus. College is a tumultuous time, and many blame studies for lower voter turnouts. Talking with students in the last week, I found a variety of reasons used to excuse not voting by students. One cited his lack of knowledge on the issues, saying it was better not to go and vote when he was not informed on the issues. I suppose that this is better than apathy, but only slightly. I find it hard to believe that this individual has not opened a newspaper or turned on a television in the last two years, because if he had, he would have been bombarded with political messages. It is especially difficult to understand how a student could complain about a lack of information when New Orleans has hosted several candidates during campaign stops in the last two years. Another student I spoke with simply did not care. “Neither one has the answers,” he said, “so what difference does it make?” He went on to say that whatever happened in the next four years was not going to affect him, so he did not see any point in voting for anyone. (I wonder what he’ll think when his first federal loans payment is due?) 


According to Editor and Publisher, a total of 84 college publications made endorsements for a candidate. Of these publications, 82 endorsed Obama. College campuses are supposed to be ripe with outspoken support, but 82 papers is only roughly 10 percent of the papers listed on College Media Network, the biggest online publisher of college newspapers. Neither Tulane nor Loyola endorsed a candidate. Again, there are probably a variety of reasons for this, but it is hard to understand why the most newsworthy story of the decade was seemingly neglected by college papers, the supposed voice of the student body. 


It’s too early to tell what will happen, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see if the rest of my fellow young people got off the couch and into line. — Bryan Davis

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