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Low Student Turnout at Polls Due to Work, not Apathy

Historical registration rates among youth indicate midterm registration rates have always been lower than in presidential years.

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, youth (ages 18 – 29) registration rates in midterm elections have dropped in the past 12 years from 56 percent in 2002 to 49 percent in the 2010 midterm.

By contrast, in the 2012 presidential election, the registration rate for young people was 58 percent.

When it comes to turnout among young registered voters, the gap between presidential and midterm elections is significantly wider.

An estimated 24 percent of all eligible young voters ages 18-29 voted in the 2010 midterms.

Midterm elections throughout the nation were held on Tuesday.


Apathy isn’t the issue with getting college students to the polls. In 2010, less than 13 percent of college students said the reason they didn’t vote was that they were not interested.

North Dakota State student Sean Mahoney said the reason he isn’t voting is he’s not “informed enough to make a decision.”

The recent downward trends in both registration rates and turnout rates among registered voters suggest that more must be done to help students get to the voting polls.

Many factors contribute to the youth turnout rate including a relative lack of media attention, a scarcity of competitive races and less voter outreach.

More than twice as many young people said that they did not vote because of registration problems, like not receiving an absentee ballot or not being registered in the right location.

This may reflect that many are first-time voters who are less familiar with the process, particularly if they moved for school and had to adjust their registration accordingly.

NDSU student Lauren Olson says she’s voting because she wants to have a say on what happens where she plans to live, but she also faced challenges with the voting process.

“It would help get more students to vote if they had the correct information on where, how and what we’re voting for,” Olson said.

The biggest reason cited by registered student voters who did not vote in 2010 was that it conflicted with their work schedule.

One third of all registered but non-voting youth said so, while only a quarter of those over 30 gave that response.

This may indicate that youth generally have lower-level jobs with less flexibility to take time off on Election Day.

“It’s easy to feel like the power and control is out of our hands in this day and age, but that is exactly why we all need to speak up and cast our ballots,” said NDSU student Jade Monroe. “We can be the change we want to see, but it starts with one vote: yours.”

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