More young Kansans voted in the 2004 presidential elections than in 2000, according to a new study, but the state still had one of the lowest voter turnouts among 18- to 25-year-olds in the nation.
Abby Kiesa, youth coordinator at the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement in College Park, Md., said turnout in that age bracket was higher in "battleground" states where the outcome of the presidential election was in doubt.
"Kansas was not one of those states," Kiesa said, noting the 40 percent turnout here among young voters, fourth-lowest among the 40 states analyzed. The national average was 47 percent.
Stephanie Wing, a spokeswoman for Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, said Kiesa's numbers - based on polls, Census data and other tracking methods - might not be accurate.
"We certainly believe it's higher," Wing said of the Kansas turnout, "but because we don't track the age of voters, there's no way to be certain of that."
But Kiesa noted the study shows young voter turnout in Kansas rose by 4 percent over 2000 - and 11 percent nationally.
"I think the story there is that youth turnout was up nationally in a significant number of states," she said. "It was certainly up in Kansas."
In Lawrence, the Kansas University Student Senate registered nearly 6,000 students to vote in the 2004 election. Josh Bender, the senate's legislative director, said he believed the vast majority of those students went to the polls.
"I can't speak for the majority of KU students, but everybody I know voted in the last election," Bender said.
Getting young adults to vote is a challenge, he said, although concerns about the war in Iraq made it easier last year.
"They don't see that politicians have any effect on their life in any way, shape or form, whatsoever," Bender said.
Wing said Kansas has a number of programs to encourage young voters, including the "Kids Vote" effort to have youngsters go to the polls and the "Kansas Vote" project to increase turnout among all age groups.
"The fact of the matter is, there have been studies that show that starting behaviors early on continues down the road," Kiesa said. "Even though Kansas isn't a battleground state, we need people involved in democracy, now and in the future."