Student voter interest lower than 2008

Ethan Summers

‘To vote, not to vote?’ or ‘Can I even make it to the polls?’ are questions on many students’ minds as the Nov. 2 elections approach.

In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign for president heavily targeted young voters. Record numbers of voters, both young and old, showed up at the polls that November to cast their ballots.

However, next week’s voting will most likely be nothing like 2008 in terms of voting numbers, said Bill Stewart, professor emeritus of political science and former chair of the department of political science at the University of Alabama.

“President Obama, then Sen. Obama, considerably [roused] young people in 2008, but neither he, nor any other politician, has [roused] young people this year,” Stewart said. “Statistics published [Wednesday] show the number of Alabama voters has gone up only slightly recently.”

Stewart attributed the slight increase not to increased voter interest, but to more young people reaching voting age.

Student Government Association President James Fowler encouraged students to vote in the upcoming election. “As citizens, it is our civic responsibility to voice our opinions and choose who will best represent not only us, but the whole state,” Fowler said in an e-mailed statement. “As an SGA, we hope we have helped educate all students through our voter registration drive and gubernatorial debate. Please become engaged in the issues surrounding our state, make an educate choice and vote on Nov. 2.”

Christopher Wilson, a senior majoring in public relations, said he wants to vote, but is choosing not to this year.

“I’ve really been too busy to follow the race,” Wilson said. “I actually usually make it a point to vote, but my school load and my workload have been a lot this year.”

Wilson, an Anniston, Ala., native who hasn’t registered to vote in Tuscaloosa County, also said the journey home is a problem.

“I have to drive two hours to vote, and I’m not doing that,” he said.

Wilson said his choice is mainly because he’s uninformed about this year’s candidates, but that voting is something informed students should do.

“The main reason I’m not voting is because I don’t know the issues, and I encourage those who do know the issues to vote, and those who do not to stay at home,” Wilson said.

On the other hand, Stewart said even those who haven’t studied candidates and topics in detail could get to the polls and vote for someone who’s beliefs generally match theirs.

“Obviously, I would not vote if I knew absolutely nothing about the candidates,” Stewart said. “However the ‘D’ and ‘R’ beside candidates’ names are reasonable guides to their belief systems.

“If one is a moderate liberal, most Democrats represent this perspective,” he said. “If one is conservative, he or she could rightly assume that the Republican candidate is more conservative than the Democrat.”

For some students, voting isn’t an option, but a duty.

“I feel that it is an important civic responsibility [and] that if we’re going to have a democracy, we still need to participate,” said Andrew Hutto, a senior majoring in history. “I feel like I wouldn’t have a right to complain if I didn’t vote.”

Hutto, who is from Alabaster, Ala., and registered to vote there, said he made the trip home for the 2008 presidential election and the 2010 Alabama primary and will do so again Tuesday.

“I’m not registered here, which is really a pain in the butt, but it’s worth it to vote,” he said. “It’s worth a little gas money.”

The issue is simpler for David Kilborn, a senior majoring in communications studies.

“I don’t have cable, so I can’t make an informed decision unless I do research online,” Kilborn said. “So I’m not going to vote.”

Polls will be open at the Student Recreation Center from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 2 for students who live on or near campus. Students must be registered in Tuscaloosa County in order to vote. For more information on how to register and to find other polling locations in Tuscaloosa, visit alabamavotes.gov.

How to Vote on Campus

What: General state elections

Where: Student Recreation Center

When: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 2

More Info: Visit alabamavotes.gov