As the calendar has shifted to October, incumbent President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney have entered the final month of their campaigns. In one of the tightest presidential races in recent memory, the youth vote may be a significant deciding factor.
On the Springfield College campus, the feeling is varied. Some are anxious. Some are enthusiastic.
“My Twitter has been blowing up with election tweets; I didn’t realize so many people I know care so much about this,” said Springfield College junior Kim Pierce.
Some students are uncertain or confused. “I don’t know if I going to vote this year, I feel like I shouldn’t, because I don’t really understand what is going on,” said senior Geoff Toal.
There are many reasons for young adults to stay home on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Many young adults in America feel as if one vote won’t make a difference. Some don’t know how to go about registering, or how to send in an absentee ballot. Then there are some who just simply don’t care about politics and have never had a reason to. They have never been encouraged to stand up and exercise their right to vote in the presidential election. This is particularly important, as this age group will either reap the benefits, or suffer the consequences of the outcome of the 2012 election.
People between the ages of 18-29 make up 24 percent of eligible voters in the U.S. In the 2004 presidential election, 17 percent of people ages 18-29 made their way to the polls. The 2008 election was significant for reasons other than the election of the first African-American president. In 2008, 51 percent of college students in America voted, nearly tripling the numbers from 2004. College campuses all over the country were covered in campaign signs. There was a greater incentive than usual, as a vote for Obama was a vote for history. “For young voters, it was like going to Woodstock,” said John Della Volpe, the polling director at the Harvard Institute of Politics. Young Americans voted for Obama at a 2:1 ratio, providing a huge boost in the electoral votes and having a dramatic influence on the outcome of the election.
Young people showed their voice in 2008; however, the polled numbers indicate that may not be the case in 2012. Results of a Gallup poll revealed that 63 percent of registered voters age 18-29 intend to vote this year. To put this in perspective, 79 percent of registered voters ages 18-29 said they planned to vote in the 2008 election. One thing that is consistent from 2008 is that youths who plan to vote still express support for Obama. Poll results indicate that 61 percent of registered voters ages 18-24 support the Commander in Chief, while 30 percent support Mitt Romney.
A recent campus poll of 100 students at Cheney dining hall showed some mixed numbers. Seventy percent indicated that they are registered to vote. Forty-two percent said they will definitely vote this year; 10 percent said they will probably vote this year, nine percent said maybe; 29 percent probably won’t, and 10 percent definitely won’t.
Dean of Students David Braverman was very quick to compliment the school’s faculty for good voting numbers on campus in recent elections.
“I think that’s because of efforts made by faculty members around campus as well as students,” he said. “In the last presidential election four years ago, we made a real concerted effort to get students to vote, and we had about 98 to 99 percent of our students registered to vote, and we ended up with 68 to 70 percent that actually did vote.”
The administration has been active in raising awareness for the 2012 election. “We have a couple things going,” said Braverman. “We’ve had voter registration at the move-in days, and we’ve had registration forms at the information desks in different places around campus. We have a couple forums going on and we have signs up and things like that.”
Despite the success Springfield College has seen with youth voting numbers, Braverman still acknowledges that they have not done enough.
“It’s never enough,” he said. “I would love to see us having active political clubs…campus Democrats, campus Republicans, even campus Green Party or other things, and then engage in discussions and debates. Students would argue with each other and listen to what the other person was saying, not to just impose their opinion on someone else, but to actually hear each other.”
Still, campus reaction remains quite mixed. Sophomore Peter Grippi is in a similar position to many college students across America. He is not registered to vote and is debating voting this November.
“I plan to, but [it] might not happen,” he says. “It’s not my top priority.”
Grippi, like many others, isn’t sure how to go about voter registration.
“I’ll talk to my parents [and] ask them how to do it. I don’t know how to do it.”
He also is uncertain about where he would go to cast his vote in November, or how the outcome of the election will affect him. “I’ll go home and go with my parents maybe [to vote]. Right now, without asking somebody, I wouldn’t know where to go vote. Right now, the election probably would not affect me much. I’m not at that age yet. I’m not paying taxes, and I’m still in school. Maybe in a few years.”
Sophomore Eric Hamrick has a different outlook.
“I’m definitely going to vote this year, because I know that there are issues in this election that will affect me when I get out of college,” he says. “The only thing is that I’m not registered yet, and I don’t know how or where I would do that, or even where I would go to vote.”
Senior Jeremy Burns was pleased with the support for voting on campus.
“We go to school in an environment that is very active in current events,” he said. “I know being politically active has always been an important part of my life. My civic duty is very important to me.”
Victor Ekpenyong, a junior, is prepared and ready to hit the polls.
“I am 21, and I got registered two years ago when I was 19. My parents and I thought it would be worth getting that done early. I plan to vote this year. It is something I’ve thought I would do since I moved to America. Since I moved here from Nigeria, I think sometimes I appreciate things like [voting] more.”
Although Ekpenyong has his voting plans laid out, many students on campus who are not registered don’t know how to register or send in an absentee ballot, since they will be away at college. Voter registration forms can now be found at any of the information desks on campus. The deadline to register in Massachusetts is Oct. 17. You can download an absentee ballot application online at your home state or commonwealth website.