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Archive for Friday, November 10, 2000

Students defy image of apathy at polls

Rock Chalk the Vote’ leads election drive

November 10, 2000

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The generation branded apathetic about politics 18-to-24 year-olds apparently beat that rap Tuesday.

This presidential election year, registered voters who live near Kansas University turned out in high numbers. Roughly 70 percent of 994 registered voters in the precinct that votes at Allen Fieldhouse went to the polls. Only 50 percent of 1,399 voters registered in the precinct voted in the 1996 presidential election.

More precise voting turnout totals for the student-heavy precincts and others in the county should be available today after provisional ballots are counted.

The high turnout in student precincts may have resulted, in part, because KU's Student Legislative Awareness Board (SLAB) organized a campuswide initiative called Rock Chalk the Vote to get students registered.

Greg Smith, a KU senior who helped with the effort, said the board registered more than 2,000 students; an undetermined number of students registered online.

"This year with everything going on in the city and with such an important election, we really thought it was important to get people to vote," he said.

Smith said many students got involved during the summer when the Lawrence City Commission was presented with a proposal that would limit the number of unrelated people allowed to live in single-family residences. The issue is still pending.

"When the city ordinance came up, we wanted to be able to come to the city and say we were registered," he said. "We wanted to make sure we were a voting power in the city. I think that really helped us get more students registered."

The board also distributed voter guides on campus. Other campus political groups, such as the Young Democrats, College Republicans and KU Green Party, also rallied to get students to the polls.

The campaign of Green Party candidate Ralph Nader also energized students, said KU senior Aravind Muthukrishnan, SLAB's issues and research coordinator.

"Personally, I think our generation gets bashed for not caring," Muthukrishnan said. "I think that's a misnomer. When we think something is important, we do turn out. ... I think when you address us that makes us feel like we're part of the political process."

In other precincts adjacent to KU:

58 percent of 580 registered voters turned out at Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.

63 percent of 888 registered voted at South Park Recreation Center, 1141 Mass.

51 percent of 1,147 registered voted at Central United Methodist Church, 1501 Mass.

In 1996, voter turnout in those precincts ranged from 48 percent at Central United Methodist to a high of 56 percent at South Park.

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