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Campaigns recruit campus votes

Elizabeth Cheffers | Wednesday, October 13, 2004

With the memory of the 2000 presidential election still fresh in students’ minds, campaign organizers have put more effort into recruiting absentee voters this election year according to professors on campus.

The two largest groups of absentee voters are traditionally members of the military and college students.

These two groups “can easily decide an election, especially in a swing state alone,” said political science professor John Roos.

Fellow political science professor Michael Zuckert agreed.

“Both campaigns do seem to be paying more attention to the issue because of the Florida decision in 2000,” Zuckert said.

Political activists nationwide have been trying to find a remedy for apathy among young voters. Since 1972, when the Constitution was amended to lower the voting age from 21 to 18, voter turnout among 18 to 24-year olds has steadily decreased.

The amount of people voting has dropped 18 percent in the past 25 years.

The procedures and deadlines surrounding absentee ballot information vary widely from state to state.

According to Roos, different states have different requirements regarding who is eligible to vote by absentee ballot and when the ballot must be received.

Presently six states allow Election Day registration, 24 allow unrestricted absentee ballot voting and 19 allow early in-person voting.

In this time of apparent young voter apathy, some students may worry their votes will not count, Roos said. However, students must note they are voting in more than just one race.

“It’s important to remember that ballots are not just for president,” Roos said. “Everyone has a congressional race going on as well, and these elections are often very close. Look at Indiana, it has two house races dead even. Students should do research into what other offices are up for election.”

Another popular myth that discourages voter participation is that absentee ballots are not even opened in already determined states.

“They are required to look at every ballot,” Roos said.

Men and women all over the country have voiced their fear of voter fraud in this election, with many questioning the reliability of computerized voting. While absentee ballots are recorded on paper and must be counted by hand, avoiding these accusations, there are other concerns.

The infamous Florida debacle in 2000 brought to the surface one possible complication. Certain states do not open their absentee ballots until the polls are closed, which means that the results from that particular state could be delayed while they are counted by hand.

Even more than the complications of absentee ballot voting, however, the close decision in Florida showed students just how powerful an absentee ballot can be.

“Student ballots are notorious for their unreliability,” Roos said. “They are often forwarded from home and have a greater chance of getting misplaced or delayed. Students have to be on top of the voting procedure to be effective.”