The deadline to register to vote for city elections is today.
Today, Oct. 11, marks the deadline to register to vote for Philadelphia’s elections, a typically underwhelming tradition to students compared to presidential elections, like in 2008.
The registration deadline comes a month before citizens can vote in the city’s Nov. 11 municipal elections.
Barbara Ferman, a political science professor, said it’s ironic that local elections tend to be far less well attended than presidential elections.
“The closer the election is to the people, the lower the turnout,” Ferman said.
Approximately 2 million more young people voted in the 2008 presidential election than in the 2004 elections, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.
But that hype has not trickled down to the local level, a trend that Temple College Republicans President Erik Jacobs said is unfortunately predictable.
“Municipal elections are more important because you have more of a say. Your vote means more. When you have a low turnout rate, it’s only a small percentage of people that vote,” Jacobs said, adding that his organization registered more than 20 students.
David Lopez, president of the Temple College Democrats, said what happens in the city affects Temple students.
“An example is this Darrell Clarke [housing] legislation. He’s worrying about his constituents–but not Temple students,” Lopez said.
College Democrats registered more than 180 students recently, Lopez said, and will be doing so throughout the day.
Lopez recognizes the “disconnect” between students and city issues.
“Having more students registering to gives us more legitimacy when [City] Council takes on issues. It allows us to address issues like the Darrell Clarke issue with a little more force,” Lopez said. “We need to make sure we’re staying here in the future.”
The substantial press coverage given to national elections gives people the impression that it is more important than local elections and therefore provides a greater incentive to participate, Ferman said.
“People perceive that [national elections are] more important,” Ferman said. “All of it has a huge impact for young people.”
Ferman listed education, health care, tax breaks and social security as just a few important issues that affect students.
“The economy is the most pressing issue on people’s minds,” she said.
Locally, Ferman said the budget, crime and safety were top issues, and that incumbent Mayor Michael Nutter is the “only candidate.” During the 2008 presidential elections, 66 percent of people ages 18 to 29 voted democratic. Philadelphia voters are overwhelmingly democrat. Because of that, republican Mayoral Candidate Karen Brown has remained the underdog throughout the race.
Ferman said there hasn’t been a strong contender on the republican side for years.
“Students need to pay attention if they want their voice heard. [Students] can have a voice,” Ferman said. “Voting is one among many ways to make a difference.”
Sarah Burton and Matthew Petrillo can be reached at