American flags wave in the cold November winds and a sense of patriotism fills the air throughout the country as citizens gather to fulfill their civic duty and cast their vote. That vote will impact the nation for the next four years.
Early birds seem to race to the local voting booths faster than to their own jobs. Some wait until after work, rushing and hoping to get there before it is too late. The few students who do vote wait until their hangover wears off and go between classes or during lunch break.
The process is not long, or at least it was not for communications senior Dave Endres, who voted for his first time in 2008.
“I was 18, so I didn’t really realize the importance of it, I suppose,” Endres says. “There’s tons of people and booths lined up and you just sign here, you grab your ballot, fill in the line, turn it in and you’re done.”
Despite barely having his own opinion on the issues, Endres heeded the concerns of his parents who swayed him to vote Republican. He says now that he has matured throughout his college career and his priorities differ from the days of his adolescence, he is ready to vote upon his own formulated opinions and education.
“Now voting in this election, I’m going to feel like I’ve got a grip on, or more of a grip on why I’m voting and why I’m voting for that particular person,” Endres says.
Endres wants to learn as much as he can about politics, not only so he can vote rationally, but also so he can know what he is talking about during political discussions with friends and family. He also says it is important for young adults and college students to get out and vote because the older a person gets, the more the issues in today’s world become apparent and more important.
“In my experience, I’m becoming more aware of the situations and how important it is,” he says. “I want to make sure I’m getting it now so that I can continue to formulate and kind of grow with it.”
During the 2008 presidential election, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the demographic of 18 to 24-year- old votes rose to 44.3 percent from 41.9 percent in 2004 and from 32.3 percent in the 2000 Presidential Election.
The 44.3 percent that represented the young demographic in 2008 was the highest seen since the 1972 presidential election of 49.6 percent, which resulted in a landslide victory for Republican incumbent President Richard Nixon over Democrat George McGovern.
The 2008 Presidential Election would have been a much closer race between Barack Obama and John McCain if the youth demographic had not voted, says Joseph Goetz, southern Arizona field representative for the College Republican National Committee. The youth vote can make all the difference in any campaign.
“(Students) have such a high influence on what goes on,” Goetz says. “A couple points different in the outcome of the youth vote could sway an election either way. If you take the 18 to 27-year-old demographic out of the general election, Barack Obama doesn’t win in a landslide.”
The sharing of opinions and discussions about politics through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter has grown immensely popular in the past decade for journalists and normal citizens, Selianna Robles, ASU’s Young Democrats president, says.
The tools have given a voice to college students around the nation while providing insight to political issues that affect the home front.
“Social Media has helped make politics more accessible to young people,” Robles says. “We can easily share news articles and videos online with our friends. You can see candidates have found that social media is a great way to reach out to youth voters, with many candidates now having Twitters and Facebook pages.”
Robles argues that college students look for political candidates who can understand the plights of young voters, such as tuition costs and access to a college education.
“That’s what we need: elected officials that think about us and what we need when crafting policy,” she says. “Elected officials are accountable to those in their electorate, if we’re not part of that voting base why would we cross their mind when they’re making important policy decisions?”
President of the ASU College Republicans Kristin Middleton says one of the problems with getting the young demographic to vote is because many students attend out-of-state schools and have other obligations other than filling out an absentee ballot.
“Absentee ballots sounds simple but students have homework, jobs, school and a lot of things going on in their lives,” Middleton says. “But voting is still important.”
Goetz suggested that absentee ballots and the voting process should change for out-of-state students with the creation of voting booths on college campuses where students can be registered full-time.
High voting rates high depends on whether the economy can get back on track, Goetz says. Either Republican or Democrat, people of all ages must trust their government in order to vote.
“I’d love to see youth voting increase in the future and I think if everything goes well and the economy takes a turn for the better it will,” Goetz says. “If people don’t have faith in the government, then they’re not going to keep turning out to vote for these candidates on both sides of the isle.”
Before, Endres felt as if his vote barely mattered, even while participating in the previous election. He says he only understood voting to be an “American” obligation.
“In this election I’m going to feel like I’ve got more of a grip on why I’m voting and why I’m voting for that particular person,” Endres says.
For some it is a duty or task, while for others it is an honor and a right fought for in wars and protests. It is the quintessence of democracy, not just any democracy of course, but my, yours and our American democracy.
This democracy gave this country notable and often times, heroically portrayed presidents, such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
With election day looming ever closer to that first Tuesday of November, Facebook and Twitter will be filled with more and more snarky, sarcastic remarks toward the political parties.
In any case, young college voters can possibly make or break either campaign this upcoming election as they did in the 1972 and 2008 presidential elections.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @ShawnFVRaymundo