Will you vote this November?
The midterm Election Day falls on Nov. 4 this year, which means that the gubernatorial race between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist will soon be decided. But what does Election Day mean here at Florida Gulf Coast University?
Joe Ross, a government and political science professor at FGCU, recently hosted an on-campus event called “Election 2014: What’s at Stake?.” The intent was to start non-partisan discussion about some of the “most-watched races and ballot measures in the country.” He has done plenty of research on voting patterns, particularly among college students.
“I guess the biggest trend for younger voters is not voting,” Ross said. “We know that voting increases with age. Having said that, college students are more likely to vote than non-college students of the same age. They just don’t vote as much as their parents or grandparents.”
The research seems to support Ross’ conclusions. According to the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, only 19 percent of the voters in the 2012 presidential election were between the ages of 18 and 29. Compare that to 30-44 year olds (27 percent) and 45-64 year olds (38 percent), and it becomes clear that voting is just not as common among young people.
The question is why? Are college-age individuals just less interested in politics? Ross believes there are a variety of factors at play.
“For college students, living away from home is an obstacle because they need to request absentee ballots in order to vote,” Ross said. “Plus, younger people in general haven’t formed the habit of voting every two years like older folks have.”
In addition to these voting hurdles, some college students claim that voter identification laws lead to age discrimination. An article published by The New York Times points out that requiring voters to have photo identification might be a significant obstacle for college students because “some students will be unaware [of the requirement] and will arrive at polling places carrying out-of-state licenses or student identification cards.” Ross says that the push for such regulation is largely supported by Republicans, who claim that requiring photo ID results in less voter fraud.
Dan Desimone, a sophomore living in North Lake Village, has experience with the difficulty of voting as a college student. His voting precinct is near his home in Orlando, so he had to request an absentee ballot in the mail.
“I’ll be honest, I think the voting process is made really hard for us [college students] on purpose to keep us from voting,” Desimone said. “Even though I’m not a fan of the process, I think it’s really important to vote. If I’m gonna complain about our politicians, I’d better have a say in who gets picked.”
The 2014 midterm Election Day is less than a week away, so students who are already registered to vote still have a chance to let their voice be heard.
According to Ross, “voting — and voting consistently — is such an important part of being an involved citizen.”