The preparation for Tuesday’s election has been a far cry from the support students showed during last year’s presidential campaigns.
There will be no lines at the polls today, no city-wide, get-out-the-vote effort and no “Vote or Die.”
Many students knew there was an election today, but few said they would vote. Whether they are uninformed about the candidates, registered in another district, or apathetic, many students who voted in last year’s presidential election will not vote Tuesday.
“Last year there were people walking around getting people to register to vote,” sophomore Rebecca Forrest said. “But [this year], whether it’s a school issue, or some issue that is pertinent to students, you still don’t hear about it.”
Before last year’s presidential election, volunteers gave students opportunities to register on campus, sometimes between classes. This year, some students forgot to register due to the lack of information leading up to the election.
“I haven’t registered to vote yet,” freshman Kyle Berman said. “I completely forgot about registration. They didn’t really tell you where to do it, I’m probably going to have to use the Web site and find out about it.”
Philadelphia voters will decide Tuesday whether or not to change the city’s charter to prevent pay-to-play contracts, a problem that has plagued city politics in recent years. In addition to the ballot question, voters will decide upon a new city controller and district attorney.
If the referendum is passed, there will be stricter sanctions imposed on no-bid and professional contracts, especially for individuals and corporations who donate to a politician’s campaign fund.
Under today’s city charter, there are limited contract regulations given to businesses making political contributions.
While many students said the issue of pay-to-play politics did not interest them, it was not their reason for not voting. Even if the issues were pertinent, some students said, they are not widely known enough to make a difference.
“I don’t really know if it has anything to do with being interesting to students,” sophomore Joanna Grim said. “You don’t even hear about it, so you don’t even know if it interests you.”
Politicians, political parties and get- out-the-vote organizations have tried for years to spark youth interest in voting. Many students are dissuaded by the fact that their individual vote does not cause any change, political science professor Daniel Chomsky said.
“A single person’s vote doesn’t make much difference,” Chomsky said. “The consequence of systematic low turnout is that certain interests don’t get represented. Young people, minorities and poor people will have less of a chance to be heard than older, richer, whiter people.”
Low turnout is nothing new in elections, especially on college campuses. Last year, several groups made large efforts to get students to vote. On campus, the most notable was the controversial “Vote or Die” campaign, sponsored by MTV. Based on past local elections in the city, nobody is predicting a large turnout.
“Undoubtedly, the turnout will be very low in this election,” political science professor Richard Joslyn said. “My take would be as long as the political system fails to provide meaningful choices to voters, and meaningful competition, and until the electoral process is weaned from the influence of fairly wealthy donors, I see no reason why people should be interested in voting.”
Many students said the university could do more to help students learn about registration and voting. Chomsky agreed, and said there was much more that all universities could do to inform students about the importance of voting.
“Institutions don’t do a good job of informing people of rights as voters,” Chomsky said. “They ought to do a better job, but students should not expect that institutions should tell them what to do.”
Chris Reber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.