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Candidates face student apathy

Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 10:10

don't care

Photo illustration by Xinzhong Zhao, Staff Photographer

The 2008 presidential election had the highest voter participation of any election since 1960, and still 80 million eligible American Voters sat on the sideline and did not vote.

Curtis Gans, director of the non-partisan Center for the Study of the American Electorate, predicted that number will rise significantly this year.

He said, “(Turnout could) ebb to levels similar to 2000, when only 54.2% of those eligible to vote did. Even that was up a bit from 1996, which had the lowest turnout since 1924.”

This year, a projected 90 million Americans who are eligible to vote won’t, but why is this?
In recent years, the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project has made use of a surprisingly simple question in the Census Bureau voting surveys.  The Census Bureau has asked registered nonvoters to state why it is they don’t vote, and the answers to this question are very telling about why Americans who are otherwise registered do not vote.

Some of the primary stated reasons for not voting are a lack of interest, which received 13 percent, or a dislike of the candidates or issues, which also received 13 percent.  
This means more than a quarter of registered nonvoters in 2008 didn’t vote because they weren’t interested or didn’t like their choices.

Fifteen percent of nonvoters cited illness or disability as their reason for not voting, especially among older registered nonvoters.  Other nonvoters were too busy or had conflicting schedules, 17 percent, which makes up about a third of the registered nonvoters.

Of the remainder, many had some kind of logistical problem with the voting process.  Six percent had problems with their voter registration, and 3 percent did not have convenient polling places. Another 3 percent had some sort of transportation problem, and 0.2 percent reported that bad weather conditions kept them from the polls on Election Day.

Many ASU students feel disconnected from the political process.

Alexandra Williams, a freshman entertainment management student of Springdale, said “I chose to not register simply because I was raised in a family that never put much emphasis on voting or being involved with politics.”

She went on to say that this lack of political discussion with her family and peers has left her still open on many of her stances and unable to differentiate between the two presidential candidates.

Brittney Jetton, a junior nursing major of Wynne, thinks the campaigns aren’t making themselves approachable enough.

“I’m not as informed as I should be about it, but the debates and the news don’t seem to be about issues that are relevant to me,” she said.

Many other commentators and political and communications analysts have said that the candidates in this election haven’t done enough work to show separation between their visions for the country.

Chris Harper, a communications professor at ASU, said, “The lack of clear articulation leaves people thinking that there isn’t enough difference to really make a decision, so why vote?”

A student can have no impact on the outcome of the election without casting a vote. Although early voting has already begun, Election Day is Nov. 6 and is a prevalent way to let one’s voice be heard on a local and national level.


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