College students’ votes have impact on elections

News-Register | Joanna Mikolajczak – Briana Harris and Gabriel Sarmiento sign up to vote at the League of Women Voters table earlier this month on North Lake College’s Central Campus.

They came out for Obama in ‘08, but will they show up Nov. 6?

By Regina Fischer
Staff Writer

The youth of America make up 24 percent of the voting population, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). That percentage equates to 46 million eligible voters between the ages of 18-29, compared to the 39 million voters over the age of 65. That’s a lot of young adults who can make a huge difference in the upcoming Nov. 6, 2012 election.

But the real question is will they? That demographic did come through in the 2008 Presidential Election, according to CIRCLE. An average of 51 percent of these young Americans voted when Barrack Obama and John McCain faced off. It was the highest percentage since 1972, when the legal voting age was lowered to 18. That year the new law catapulted Richard M. Nixon to re-election with 72.5 percent of eligible youth voting, thus altering the nation’s history forever.

And there is no doubt that America’s youth played a significant role in Obama’s win in the 2008 election. His campaign’s usage of social media was credited for reaching untapped voters, volunteers and donations.

Studies show that young people with college experience vote more consistently, CIRCLE reported. A random poll of students on North Lake College’s campus yielded mixed results earlier this month when The League of Women Voters (LWV) were signing up new voters.

“I don’t really care about voting,” said NLC student Jimmy Houser. Yet, others like Gabriel Sarmiento acknowledged that the importance of voting is “so we can get our thoughts and ideas across to our elected officials.”

Ian Wood, another NLC student, observed that “it helps [youth] to get their voice out to be heard.”

The college’s Student Government Association (SGA) was responsible for bringing the LWV representatives to campus. “We have to inform young people about the importance of voting,” said SGA secretary Jeong Lee.

A number of significant issues in the 2012 election may affect this young populace.  USA Today reported that new laws going into effect in 14 states will require a photo I.D., less early voting, and the banning of convicted felons from voting. Also, the rising cost of living: gas, food, tuition and health care.

“If America’s youth do not vote in the next election, they will have less control over their daily life. After all, it is their future that is to be decided … whether they participate or not,” said John Hitt, professor of government at NLC.

The problem is trying to convince them.

Dr. Lynn Brink, professor of both government and history at NLC, offers a few questions for voters to ask themselves before they go to the polls. “What issues are you interested enough in to go vote?” said Brink, who said it has to be something that affects them personally. “What issue is going to mobilize young people?”

An impressive trend thus far in the 2012 Presidential race is Libertarian Ron Paul support of young Americans. His message of “personal liberty” has triggered the response of his followers like “army ants of youth.” They are organized in their support of him and have been everywhere. However, the Obama campaign still expects a high turnout in young voter support.

With millions of young Americans eligible to vote this year, politicians are trying every trick imaginable to draw in votes. Young voters will have to decide what for themselves is important for their future.

To learn more about how the upcoming election will affect you, contact CIRCLE at http://www.civicyouth.org/