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20 October 2010

Power to the voters

Now available at a polling place near you: midterm elections.

From now until Nov. 2, registered students have the chance to vote for political candidates who will represent them locally and nationally.

“Our votes really do make a difference. If we come together as students to vote for candidates that will fit our needs, we could really make a difference. I think it’s important for us to get our voices heard so that we could make sure that the changes that we want to see made actually happen,” Student Government President Christina Farmer said.

An estimated 10.8 million citizens between the age of 18 and 29 voted in the 2006 midterm elections, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, a company that conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.

Young voters are known for being the most indifferent demographic in the country. According to the Seattle Pi, an online-only publication based out of Seattle, young people have voted at rates between 10 percent and 25 percent lower than the national average for decades.

“Students have always been reluctant to participate in politics. In 2008, there was a tremendous interest. This year, I see students reverting back to their typical pattern of not being particularly interested or involved,” said Dr. Marsha A. Matson, a lecturer at the department of political science at UM.

Voter turnout during the 2006 midterm election increased from 25 percent in 2006 to 22 percent in 2002. Time will be the only indicator of turnout for this midterm election.

At an event hosted Monday by the UM’s political science department, political strategists Mark Penn and Karen Hughes argued about the repercussions of the midterm election.

“The [midterm] election will have some pretty dramatic consequences,” said Karen Hughes, who acted as political strategic advisor to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2002. “These elections will set the tone for President Obama’s last two years in office.”

Hughes, who also managed the White House offices of communications, media affairs, speech writing and press secretary, mentioned that this election is coming in a time of a lot of anxiety, probably more anxiety than she has seen in her lifetime.

In a country that has recently suffered multiple economic woes and has passed a controversial health care reform bill, many citizens feel strongly about the direction the country is headed and will go to the polls to express their opinions on issues.

“Voters are really seeking a government that works to find the best solution for both parties,” said Mark Penn, who served as chief advisor to President Clinton in the 1996 presidential election. “This is a difficult political season to read; Republicans are doing much better, but you must really look at undercurrents in the election.”

At UM, some students seek to address these political issues and abolish apathy among young voters. Student Government recently launched a campaign called “Get Out the Vote,” in conjunction with student affairs to encourage students to register to vote. The campaign managed to register over 680 students.

Other efforts to promote voting are currently underway.

“We’re hoping to get an early voting shuttle for people who can’t vote on Election Day so that they could vote sometime in the next week,” said Matthew Robayna, SG executive at large internal.

Student Government also worked with the Young Democrats and College Republicans on the debate held Monday to inform students about what each party supports.

“I am voting because I think it is the most important mechanism through which I can reflect my opinions on how government is currently operating and the policies I would like to see implemented in the future,” said Jennifer Safstrom, commuter senator and chair of policy and finance committee.

Stephanie Parra may be contacted at sparra@themiamihurricane.com.