Election 2008

election 2008, youth vote, college vote
The News & Advance, Jill Nance/AP
Chancellor of Liberty Univesity Jerry Falwell Jr.

A Final Campus Push, As the Youth Vote’s Impact Becomes Clear

October 01, 2008 04:15 PM
by Christopher Coats
As voter registration deadlines loom and new voters arrive in record numbers, the national spotlight turns to the promise and challenges of the youth vote.

The Youth in 2008

Often criticized for their lack of participation after decades of decreasing activity, college voters, and more broadly young voters, have seen a dramatic upswing in registration since 2004, now accounting for 14 percent of the Democratic Party, up from 9 percent during the last election.

Further, during the primary contests, states saw an average increase of 52 percent in participation among young voters.

With deadlines fast approaching in a number of key states, representatives from both parties have been working furiously to register new voters, reaching record numbers across the country.

Some states, including Wisconsin, allow registration up to and on Election Day.

Statistically strong with younger voters, Barack Obama has reportedly poured untold resources into voter registration drives on college campuses across the country, culminating in record numbers of new college voters, which have tended to lean Democrat.

“Generally getting people registered doesn’t help our party,” Dan Reilly, a Providence College Sophomore and College Republican told The Washington Post.

According to a Rock the Vote poll taken this month, younger voters are twice as likely to identify themselves as Democrats than they are as Republicans, however, Republican activists have not given up on the college vote.

Both Sides in the Game

At Liberty University in Virginia, Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. launched a massive voter registration drive that could bring more than 10,000 students from the traditionally conservative school to the polls on Election Day.

Intent on making sure every eligible voter takes part, the college has made it a campus-wide effort, with some professors promising extra credit for voting and going so far as to cancel classes on Election Day.

Although Virginia has voted for the Republican presidential candidate every year since 1964, recent poll numbers suggest the state could go either way this year.

Just days before the state’s registration deadline, it was reported that Virginia had added more than 280,000 new voters to their rolls, with 42 percent of those between the ages of 17 and 25.

Obstacles Along the Way to Election Day

Despite strong registration campaigns on campuses, and record turnout, the push to register college voters has not been without its pitfalls.

On several college campuses, students have encountered unique state regulations and often misstatements from the voting officials, which have made the registration process more difficult or confusing.

Students in both Virginia and Colorado encountered announcements from officials stating that they would no longer be claimed as dependents on their parent’s tax statements if they registered locally to vote.

This economic reclassification threatened some students’ ability to receive financial aid and scholarships.

Later, some Virginia voting officials came under fire for sending a questionnaire to students who registered from a college campus with queries about their finances and how much they paid for tuition.

In California, a three-day rule, requiring all registration forms to be submitted within 72 hours of their completion, has made it more difficult for organizers handling large numbers of new voters.

The rule “makes it harder to database all the forms on time and contact people who have filled it out wrong,” Cal Democrats Internal Vice President Ariel Boone told the Washington Post.

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