Across campus, students share thoughts on Election Day

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LSA senior Gabriel Leaf, chair of the University's chapter of College Republicans, reacts to Tuesday's elections. Buy this photo

By Allana Akhtar, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 5, 2014

Results are in across the country for the midterm election — historically known for lower voter turnouts than presidential years. However, University students braved the rain to cast their ballots at polling locations throughout campus.

According to a poll by the Harvard Institute of Politics, only 26 percent of young voters said they would “definitely vote” prior to the election, similar to the 27-percent proportion in the 2010 midterm elections.

Of college students, 31 percent said they would definitely vote.

Larry Kestenbaum, Washtenaw County Clerk and Register of Deeds, said relatively low voter turnout among young people could be attributed to campaigns and advertising that wasn’t targeted toward them.

A change in the Michigan voter laws 10 years ago mandated that first-time voters must either vote in person or pick up an absentee ballot in person. Kestenbaum said this law was a hindrance to students who lived away from their home districts, and politicians believed that it was futile to attempt to market to young voters.

At Pierpont Commons, Ann Arbor resident Lisa Jibson, a poll volunteer, said many students tried to vote Tuesday who could not. They were registered in a district outside of Ann Arbor or had moved from their original registration address within the city.

“We’ve had to redirect quite a few,” Jibson said. “We hate to have anyone feel like they didn’t get the chance to vote.”

LSA freshman Cole Zingas voted for the first time Tuesday morning. Zingas said he wanted to vote regardless of party lines, and voted for mostly Democrats save Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

“I just didn’t believe Mark Schauer had any kind of real plan for the state,” he said. “I liked what Rick Snyder did the last few years in Michigan.”

Kestenbaum said he anticipated larger-than-average participation in Washtenaw County in this midterm election, to the tune of 140,000 voters. The 2010 midterm election saw just over 120,000 turn out to cast a ballot, while more than 180,000 voted in Washtenaw County during the 2012 election.

Early exit polls from the National Exit Poll data by Edison Research for this year’s midterm election report that the youth electorate was at 13 percent, slightly higher than in 2010, though the statistic is subject to change within the next few days.

Lon Johnson, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, said voter turnout was a possible hurdle in the election, yet expressed optimism in the party’s attempt to get eligible voters to the ballots.

Poll volunteers reported a boost in ballots over 2010. Jibson said turnout was good considering it was a midterm election.

College Republicans, College Democrats and the Public Policy School held separate watch parties for Tuesday night’s election results.

Four students attended the College Republicans’ watch party, including LSA senior Sarah Cunningham. She said younger and older members of the party differ on social issues, like same-sex marriage and women’s rights, but are bound by the principle of conservative fiscal policy.

Cunningham said being a conservative in left-leaning Ann Arbor is difficult.

“I really wish that I could be much more open about my political views and I wish that people would be more willing to dialogue with me because I think we have so much more in common with Democrats, especially as young Republicans, than most people think we do,” she said.

LSA senior Gabe Leaf, chair of the University's chapter of the College Republicans, said he was chiefly concerned with reducing unemployment and expanding Michigan’s economy. His vote for Snyder stemmed from the governor’s gradual increases in funding higher education.

“He's a Michigan man himself,” Leaf said. “He comes from us; he knows what we’ve been through, the kind of struggles are for higher education to operate, and he’s also a businessman so he knows how to run these things more effectively.”

LSA junior Stephen Culbertson, communications director for College Democrats, said he believed the Democratic Party had a better understanding of education issues. He also appreciated U.S. Representative-elect Debbie Dingell’s advocacy for Michigan jobs and women’s issues.

“While some of the results are a bit disappointing, there is a lot to look forward to with Gary Peters and Debbie Dingell in Washington,” he said. ”I think they can represent Michigan very well. They will be tremendous advocates for Michiganders and the middle class, so that’s a big bright spot tonight.”