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Archive for Saturday, September 9, 2006

As vote nears, political spark lacking among KU students

September 9, 2006

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When Kansas University's Young Democrats invited Democratic attorney general candidate Paul Morrison to campus last month, it was a struggle to get students to even show up.

"Nobody knew who Paul Morrison was," said Marc Langston, the student group's president. "I'm not sure that students really realize that state offices are just as important, if not more, than national offices."

Langston said he had to seek out some people to get a crowd of about 30 people for Morrison's visit.

Exciting young voters can be a challenge. And despite record turnout nationally in 2004, some are predicting less-than-stellar numbers of young voters in Kansas' upcoming November election.

The Maryland-based Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement recently tracked voter statistics nationally.

Calling Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' re-election run a "safe race" and noting the lack of a U.S. Senate contest, the center predicted the numbers in Kansas likely wouldn't top those of the last midterm election in 2002 when youth turnout was 23 percent.

The youth vote surged nationally in 2004 to the highest levels in more than a decade, the center reported, but it's unclear whether that points to a new trend or whether the figures represent an isolated spike in voter participation.

Keeping up

Some students say they simply don't know the political players nor much about their stance on issues.

Kansas University Young Democrats, from left, freshman Julia Groeblacher, sophomore Amanda Applegate and sophomore Monica Crane discuss the political group's plan for the year Friday at Templin Hall. Crane, treasurer for Young Democrats, said the group plans to campaign for Democratic candidates and encourage more students to vote in the Nov. 7 election.

Kansas University Young Democrats, from left, freshman Julia Groeblacher, sophomore Amanda Applegate and sophomore Monica Crane discuss the political group's plan for the year Friday at Templin Hall. Crane, treasurer for Young Democrats, said the group plans to campaign for Democratic candidates and encourage more students to vote in the Nov. 7 election.

"I just can't keep up on politics and the candidates' viewpoints enough to know anything and vote smart," Kansas University sophomore Tyler Sellers said. "I'm not to the point when I feel like it affects me that much."

KU freshman Seth Strickell turned 18 last month. He plans on voting, but he's not watching the races closely yet.

"I haven't been watching too much TV lately," he said. "I don't even know who the candidates are in the governor's race right now."

KU sophomore Hannah Tripp said she would vote in November, but she doubts there are enough young people like herself who actually go to the polls.

"I don't think that enough of them are educated enough on candidates and what's going on in the world that they think that they can vote," she said.

Mobilization efforts

Mark Lopez, research director of the Maryland center, said Kansas voter mobilization efforts aren't as strong as those in some other states, nor are the election rules as flexible for the often-transient young voter.

As an example he pointed to Minnesota, the state with the highest youth turnout - 69 percent - in 2004. Minnesota, unlike Kansas, has election day registration.

Kansas ranked 41st in the nation for youth voter turnout in 2004 with 40 percent turnout.

Langston of KU Young Democrats said providing an online mapping system for finding precincts and offering extended election hours could bring more young people to the polls.

But sending registration information by mail doesn't work for many students, he said.

"We don't even have mailboxes for the most part that we check regularly," he said. "The average Joe student is pretty hard-pressed to figure out what to do. I think it's pretty difficult for them to figure out where to go."

There have been some efforts to help young people.

KU's student government distributed 5,800 voter registration forms to KU residence halls. Students can fill out the forms and return them to the Student Senate office, which will do the rest. And Student Senate in upcoming weeks plans to send a mass e-mail to all KU students with voter registration information.

"We're trying to make it as easy as possible," said Ian Staples, Student Senate's legislative director. "It's very easy to register to vote. It's very hard to get people in the booths on election day.

"You can't take them to the polls. You can't force them to turn in an absentee ballot."

The roughly 13,500 registered voters ages 18-24 make up 18 percent of all registered voters in Douglas County. In the recent primary, 274 young voters turned out and made up 3 percent of all voters.

"We're getting a lot of registrations from that age group," Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said. "Whether that then correlates into people showing up to vote, I don't know."

So why should young people be interested this season?

Jessica Bergman, a KU freshman interning for Kansas Atty. Gen. Phill Kline, said the race between Kline and Morrison is one that people are watching.

"Depending on who wins this election, it's going to influence what rights we have in the future," she said.

Bill Walberg, secretary of KU's College Republicans, said the primary numbers weren't a good marker for the general election. He predicts strong turnout on Nov. 7.

Walberg said young Republicans are mobilizing.

"We're trying to stay as active as possible," he said.

Comments

63BC 7 years, 7 months ago

Tychoman, I'll try to be more precise.

2004 Presidential exit poll results reported by CNN;

http://edition.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/pages/results/states/US/P/00/epolls.0.html

sorted by educational attainment display a highly typical pattern.

Democratic support is curvilinear---they do their best among high school dropouts and holders of advanced degrees. Republicans do their best among college dropouts or undergraduate degree holders. This finding is consistent with almost every exit poll conducted this decade.

KU, a campus population dominated by undergraduates, should therefore produce a more balanced story---this one by content and sequencing is not balanced or representative.

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Tychoman 7 years, 7 months ago

63BC if you think this article is liberally biased, read it again.

Republicans are strong among the college-educated? Holy crap I must be going to the wrong college!

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MadAsHell 7 years, 7 months ago

Maybe if they held elections via MySpace, kids would be interested.

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prospector 7 years, 7 months ago

WHAT? WAIT, LET ME TURN DOWN MY I-POD.

Yea, I vote. The last time I did my candidate won and Debbie Sue, not Betty Lou, got to be homecoming queen.

Apathy rules!

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63BC 7 years, 7 months ago

Thirty-one paragraphs in this story.

Democrats/apathy/Democrats/apathy and finally in the last five paragraphs the reporter concedes that Republicans exist---almost like the editor made her throw it in.

This despite the fact that in Douglas county, registered Republicans are a solid plurality and are particularly strong among the college-educated and yet they are a complete afterthought for this story.

The really amazing part, deep down I'll bet you this reporter doesn't consider herself biased.

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willie_wildcat 7 years, 7 months ago

Ill add on to that by saying if people do not vote this November then they do not have the right to whine and complain about who wins or loses. That is my thought. It is sad that some of these kids do not get out and vote. It's what maybe 20 minutes out of their time? I always make it a point to vote on election day. Frankly the thought of Kline winning is just down right frightening.

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Frank Smith 7 years, 7 months ago

"(A) KU freshman interning for Kansas Atty. Gen. Phill Kline, said the race between Kline and Morrison is one that people are watching."

" 'Depending on who wins this election, it's going to influence what rights we have in the future,' she said."

Right. If Kline gets reelected, you won't have the right of confidentiality of your medical records. You won't have the right to have sex unless you're married. You won't have the right to be free from religious indoctrination in science classes. You won't have the right to speak your mind when and where you like.

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