Voter Turnout

Aug 292004
Authors: Beth Klaene

Only 55 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in 2000, according to U.S. Census Bureau reports.

So why do so many people – especially adults age 18 to 24 – choose not to vote?

Kyle Saunders, a political science professor at CSU, said lower voter-turnout typically means one of two things: Either people are not unhappy enough to take a stand or they believe their vote does not matter.

“Younger people are less likely to have developed political efficacy because they haven’t made the same kinds of societal connections that older people have,” Saunders said. Efficacy is a person’s belief that he or she has the power to influence an effect.

Saunders said demographic factors such as education, income, marital status and religion also have an impact on voting habits.

Ernie Chavez, CSU psychology department chair, said voter apathy also stems from a feeling of disenfranchisement.

“Developmentally, the youth’s vision is here and now, but as you age, the vision widens,” Chavez said. “A student’s vision is getting good grades, family and work; they don’t realize that the political decisions made now impact the personal decisions down the road.”

However, the war in Iraq and the upcoming presidential election have had an impact on some CSU students.

“I have lots of friends in the military, and I worry about their safety. That’s why I am choosing one man over the other and voting,” said Drew Shope, a freshman landscape architecture major.

Robb Finnigsmier, a senior political science major, agreed.

“What you vote on now affects us in the future,” Finnigsmier said. “In some countries, it’s mandatory and there are penalties for not voting. As a citizen, it’s your duty and your right.”

To combat the past trends in low voter-turnout and overall voter apathy, groups like Declare Yourself are reaching out to young people by providing candidate information and registering voters across the country. According to its Web site, has registered 368,000 new voters so far. The organization is trying to reach a goal of 1 million in time for the 2004 presidential election.

CSU juniors Nicole Knight, a liberal arts major, and Alison Stiven, a business marketing major, also plan to vote in the upcoming election.

“This is the election where our voice really counts. The youth vote will make a difference,” Knight said.

Stiven agreed.

“I’m concerned about what the future holds. When you look at Florida and the last election and how close things were, you know your vote counts,” Stiven said.

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