Students cast votes, question low voter turnout

USI Shield Staff

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About a quarter of Vanderburgh County’s registered voters turned up to cast their votes for local, state and national representatives Tuesday.

This year’s 25.92 percent voter turnout fell from 37 percent in 2010, the last time a presidential candidate was not on the ballot.

USI students were among those who made their voice heard at the polls and wish other individuals their age cared enough to vote in the election, too.

Junior English education major Brooke Schleter said she views voting as a privilege that more college students should take advantage of.

“There’s people all over the world who would literally and are literally dying for the opportunity to vote, and it feels wasteful not to use that whenever we have it,” she said.

Sophomore public relations major Patrick Henry voted around 11 a.m. at the vote center located at Westside Christian Church on North Red Bank Road, one of the closest to USI’s campus. He said the lines were long, but not as long as they were during the 2012 presidential election.

“Both times for me it was interesting,” he said. “You’re trying to make a difference. The first time I voted, I voted for a president, so that was really cool. But the people I voted for today affect our community, too, so it’s still exciting.”

Henry, an Evansville native, said a lot of the decisions made by those who win would affect the students who decide to stick around after they graduate.

“You hear people constantly complain about the way things are done in our government – even people our age. Well the voting age is 18 for a reason; because you, as an adult, are directly affected by who’s in office, so why wouldn’t you vote?” he said. “If everyone was as apathetic as most kids are today, nothing would get done.”

Amber Pretzsch, a sophomore occupational therapy major, used social media to determine which candidates she was going to vote for.

“I’ve seen ‘Wedding for Sheriff’ signs everywhere and my best friend – she was voting for sheriff – and she told me a lot about him,” Pretzsch said. “I just think social media has a lot to do with it these days.”

Some students, like Matt Lockard, took a more traditional route and read each candidate’s bio.

“I would say, personally, my big thing I look for is candidates who aren’t going to just vote for their party on every single thing,” the senior computer science major said. “I think that most candidates should be more moderate, so I tend to vote for the more moderate candidates.”

He said it’s important for college students to vote so that those in office properly present their ideas.

“The biggest topics that (are) going to affect college students (are) any environmental issues and ones in relation to national debt, because those are the two things that are going to most affect us for the rest of our lives.”

When it comes to students showing up – or not showing up – at the polls, it’s a matter of motivation, said Nicholas LaRowe, assistant professor of political science.

Student turnout during elections tends to be fairly low because they have less at stake than other demographics, he said.

“People tend to vote because government is deciding on issues that affect their homes, the school district their kids attend, their taxes,” LaRowe said. “College students usually don’t worry about these kinds of things.”

It can take a few years for students to plant roots in a particular community, develop a career or make ties with peers who have strong political views and connections. Because of this, they tend to vote less, he said.

Voting is a habit, so he said it’s important for young people to vote. But he also said it ultimately comes down to the individual.

“The university could make more attempts to get the word out on how to register to vote and where to go,” LaRowe said. “But at the end of the day, if you want to vote, you’ll find a way. And if you’re not interested, not much is probably going to change that.”

Bobby Shipman, Rachel Christian and James Vaughn contributed to this story.