Mar 062005
 
Authors: Ben Bleckley

Today is the last day voters can register for the April 5 municipal election. The office of mayor and three City Council seats are in the balance, as well as three ballot issues.

This year's race has great implications for college-age citizens, and while any 18-year-old citizen and 30-day resident of Fort Collins can vote, how many students will?

No Real Increase

November was supposed to be the time young Americans found their voice. The New Voters Project was in full force on the Lory Student Center Plaza, a cardboard cutout of the president was erected, an enormous donkey was inflated, loud country music was played and our campus was even on C-SPAN.

After all that effort, the number of voters between 18 and 24 years increased from 42.3 percent to 51.6 percent, according to www.newvotersproject.org, almost a 10 percent difference.

But the 10 percent is not such a big increase.

In 2000, overall turnout was at 51 percent. In 2004, overall turnout also increased by about 10 percent to 60.7 percent, according to the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate.

Perhaps young voter turnout would have been even less without the efforts made. The line that wound through the student center on Election Day truly was inspiring. The democratic process really does mean something to a lot of students.

But apparently, half of college-age citizens don't care about the war, federal tuition assistance, Social Security, federalized health care, foreign policy, jobs or abortion.

Iraqis put on their best clothes and stared death in the face for the chance to vote. What do young Americans use as their excuse? Are they too busy, lazy, apathetic or comatose? Or can they not fill in those little bubbles?

Maybe an election closer to home will allow the other 50 percent of young voters to get their feet wet.

High Stakes

On Tuesday, the results of an economic study of the three-unrelated ordinance will be presented to City Council. This largely un-enforced ordinance states that no more than three unrelated adults can live in the same residence. City Council is considering increased enforcement of this ordinance.

The study found that 71 percent of "violator household" tenants are college students.

It also found that the rent paid per tenant in "violator households" is 50 percent less than those paid by other renters.

If the three-unrelated ordinance is enforced, it could mean drastic increases in monthly rent for many students.

Unfortunately, 69 percent of the general public living within four houses of a "violator" would support stronger enforcement.

It is that 69 percent who are going to vote, and students need to offer opposition.

Ray Martinez, the term-limited mayor, Marty Tharp, a council member, and Bill Bertschy, a term-limited council member and mayoral candidate, are historically more open to possibilities that make student living a part of the community.

With Martinez leaving and Tharp challenged in District 5, some election scenarios could potentially affect enforcement of the three-unrelated ordinance.

This issue alone makes stakes for the municipal election very high indeed.

Ease of Voting

The election is easily compared to November's. There will be no long lines involved and ballots will be mailed to citizens by March 21 and due back April 5.

There are a number of debates and informational meetings in upcoming weeks to inform voters as well. All of them will take place in City Hall, 300 Laporte Ave.

Tonight, mayoral candidates will debate at 7 p.m. District 1 candidates will debate afterwards at 8 p.m.

Wednesday, candidates will debate for the District 3 and 5 seats at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., respectively.

On Monday, the three ballot issues will be debated starting at 7 p.m.

Election forums will also be televised on City Cable 27 throughout the month.

Registration

Voting in this election should be a priority for all students.

Today is the deadline to register. Voters can check their registration by visiting the Larimer County Web site at www.co.larimer.co.us/elections.

Students can register to vote at any Colorado Driver's Licensing Office (there is one next to campus at Prospect Road and Shields Street) or at either the Larimer County Clerk's Office, 200 W Oak St., or the Fort Collins Clerk's Office, 300 Laporte Ave.

Our voice wasn't loud enough in November. Let's make sure it is in April.

Ben Bleckley is a senior English student. His column runs every Monday in the Collegian.

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