College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

The ‘Youth Vote’: Will You be Among the 46 million?

When youth means mobility, young people often forget to register

No matter where you live in the United States, you know that November 6 is no ordinary Tuesday this year. It is, of course, Election Day in the 2012 presidential campaign.

In prior election years, the youth vote hasn’t always been much of a factor. Why don’t many young people vote? Dr. Michael Henderson, assistant professor of political science at Ole Miss, says you can blame the fact that many younger voters move around a lot.

“If you’re a younger American, you tend to be more mobile,” Henderson said. “Which means that if you’re from out of state and now in Oxford, you have to do one of a few things: you have decide to register to vote in Mississippi and find a new polling place, wherever that may be in Oxford, so there are extra costs you have to face; or do you decide to vote absentee in your home state?”

Freshman Greg Poole will not be voting in this presidential election. He is from Raleigh, North Carolina and he did not find the time to register for an absentee ballot.

Now, he says, he regrets that.

“This election is extremely important to me and I feel that people do not believe it is when I tell them I am not voting,” Poole said. “I admit that I forgot about registering for an absentee ballot, but I am still anxious to see how the election pans out.”

Poole said wishes he had talked to older, experienced voters so that he could have done exactly what he needed to do to vote absentee. This would have been Poole’s first chance to vote in a presidential election, since he turned 18 on Dec. 16 last year.

When politicians and pundits are talking about the youth vote, they are referring to voters in the 18-29-age bracket. Within this demographic, there are a lot of voters. In fact, according to civicyouth.org, this demographic consists of 46 million people who will be eligible to vote in 2012.

Though the number of potential voters in the age bracket is significant, the group hasn’t made much of an impact on the general elections.

“The youth vote is actually the least represented group when it comes to voting,” Henderson said.

Jon Slimack, a senior from Missouri, did opt to take the absentee ballot route in this year’s election.

“Voting is an American right and it shouldn’t be taken for granted, I feel I need to exercise my right as an American citizen,” Slimack said. “With Missouri being such a swing state, I would like to have my voice heard in my state, opposed to having it almost not matter in a Republican-heavy state such as Mississippi.”

As for Poole, he says he plans to vote in every presidential election from here on out.

from the DM by Michael Grimaud and Mary Adele Smith