Young voters head to polls

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A steady stream of students could be seen inside the Flawn Academic Center throughout the week preparing to cast their ballots during the first days of early voting for the 2012 presidential elections.

At the end of the fourth day of early voting, 3,849 votes had been cast at the FAC. Billy Calve, director of Student Government’s Hook the Vote campaign, said although the energy and enthusiasm of 2008 is difficult to replicate, student engagement remains high on campus.

Some statistics show that being civically engaged is less common among young people. In 2008, 49 percent of eligible 18 to 24-year-olds reported voting compared to an overall turnout rate of 64 percent, according to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau. This increase was compared to a 47 percent voter turnout in 18 to 24-year-olds in 2004, when there was also a 64 percent turnout rate among all citizens of voting age.

A recent study by the Pew Research Center offers a bleaker outlook for 2012. According to the study, the number of citizens younger than 30-years-old that feel engaged in the election is down this year to 18 percent from 35 percent in 2008.

Regina Lawrence, director of the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, said one reason for lower youth engagement and turnout relative to older adults is that campaigns simply don’t focus on young people as much as older voters.

“With young voters there is often a chicken and egg problem,” Lawrence said. “Campaigns don’t talk to them because they don’t believe they will turn out in big numbers. If they don’t talk to young people, it’s less likely they will turn out.”

Students voting at the FAC Wednesday afternoon weighed in with their perspectives on young people’s engagement in this year’s election.

Public health senior Candace Whaley said she believes young people are more engaged because this election’s issues are going to directly impact them in terms of education, student loans and finding employment after graduation.

“I feel like a lot of people in our age group are paying a lot more attention, because our vote does count and it can change how we’re currently living,” Whaley said.

Likewise, business sophomore Carly Colville, who is a first-time voter, said merely being eligible to vote helps to engage young people.

“I think the ability to walk in there and cast a vote definitely affects people’s perception and interest,” Colville said.

Engaged students like Whaley and Colville may serve to change statistics that say young people aren’t politically interested.

“I’m paying attention,” Colville said. “I’m definitely not ignoring it.”

Printed on Friday, October 26, 2012 as: Early voting draws youth, campus engagement high