Voter apathy to be high for students

By Jonathan Wroble

Joseph Hinchliffe, director of undergraduate studies in political science, says there is a link between age and likeliness to vote.

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) reports that 18 to 24-year-olds had only 47 percent voter turnout in the 2004 general election. This was the lowest percentage for any demographic.

“College-aged citizens vote less often,” Hinchliffe said.

He blamed this trend on the social environment of a large university.

“College students tend not to be well-embedded in their communities . it is a point in their lives when they are un-rooted,” he said.

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Justin Randall, a junior in LAS and the president of the College Republicans, said that frequent scandals in Illinois politics account for the low voter turnout.

“Illinois is one of the more corrupt states with both parties, and it has disgusted and frustrated voters,” he said.

Regardless of the reason, politically active students and professors agree that voter apathy among students is prevelant.

Justin Cajindos, a senior in LAS and the president of the College Democrats, described voter apathy as a “vicious cycle.”

“People our age will say they don’t vote because politicians don’t listen to them, but politicians don’t listen to them because they don’t vote,” Cajindos said.

To reverse this condition, Cajindos and Randall are working to register as many students as possible to vote in the upcoming election on Nov. 7.

Every weekday, the College Democrats run a registration booth outside of the Illini Union from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The group also goes door to door in apartments and runs Dorm Storm, a program that registers students outside of dining halls. Cajindos hopes to register around 2,000 students by Oct. 10, the registration deadline.

With the College Republicans, Randall will try to promote voter awareness by bringing candidates to the Quad. Mark Shelden, Champaign County clerk, applauded all efforts to increase awareness.

“(There are) so many opportunities to get registered on campus,” he said.

As county clerk, Shelden looks to educate voters by publishing information about candidates, issues and poll locations on his Web site, Still, some students feel that he could do more.

On Sept. 22, Shelden received a letter from University students and faculty regarding early voting.

Currently, early voting allows the public to vote between Oct. 16 and Nov. 2 without an excuse. Early voting only takes place at Shelden’s office, located at 1776 E. Washington St. in Urbana.

The letter proposed an early voting station in the Illini Union and offered personnel and financial support to the County Clerk’s office.

Katie Dawson, a junior in LAS and the co-chair of the Student Senate Voter Registration Committee, provided one of the letter’s seven signatures.

“We feel that it is important to allow students, community members and faculty to have a place to vote if need be,” she said.

Cajindos agreed, explaining that the Illini Union is a central location and is more convenient than the County Clerk’s office. Randall, on the other hand, signed the letter but no longer sees an Illini Union early voting station as a possibility.

“Theoretically, it’d be great, but realistically, it’s just not plausible,” he said.

Randall said that, in order to set up the station, Shelden would first need to negotiate with the Union to get space and then would need to fund the project.

Such an effort would “almost show favoritism towards the campus as opposed to the community,” Randall said.

Shelden has yet to personally respond to the letter, but he continues to encourage University students to participate in politics.

“There are important decisions being made at all levels of government (and students) can impact public policy by registering and voting,” he said.