College Dems, GOP register student voters
By HELENA RAYAM
In a bipartisan effort to promote voter registration, the College Democrats and Republicans co-sponsored their first voting registration drive this week.
"We want to get more voter awareness," said Lisa Demidovich, a College Democrat and the drive's co-chair.
The representatives from both clubs passed out flyers informing voters of presidential candidates and also provided registration forms for students.
"We just want to make it more accessible," Demidovich said.
Students who walked by the booth commented on the convenience that the registration drive provided for them.
"I've been wanting to register at home," said freshman Maureen Jones. "When the opportunity presented itself, I took it."
Jones, along with most Notre Dame students, falls under the age demographic that has historically had the worst voter turnout at elections. Since the 26th Amendment granted 18-year-olds were granted the right to vote in 1971, the voter percentages have remained low among 18- to 24-year-olds.
Voter turnout was highest in this age group for the 1972 election, the first congressional election after the amendment passed, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 58.9 percent of eligible young voters registered and 49.6 percent of those registered voters actually made the trip to the polls.
The trend since the 1970s has been that young voters go to the polls in far greater number in presidential election years than in off-years.
In the 1996 presidential elections, the voter turnout was a low 32.4 percent in the 18-to-24 age group. Based on past trends showing that turnout is higher in years without an incumbent candidate, this year's contest will likely draw more voters without incumbent candidates, but it is uncertain as to what the youth will do.
The students running the drive hope to boost voter turnout, and thus increase the influence of young voters.
"The reason I became involved with the College Republicans to begin with is because the political apathy is something that bother me," said College Republicans treasurer Katie Thompson. "We have a huge constituency, but we don't use it."
Demidovich agreed that young people could make more of a political influence if they would vote.
"It's easy for us to take for granted that we have the right to vote," said Demidovich.
Junior Nathan Blazei came to register to vote for the first time after reading an ad in the Observer and because the drive was convenient for him.
"In the past two years, I didn't care to vote," he said. "I definitely feel it affects me more right now."
Sophomore Anabel Navarra said that she feels that policies directly affect her and that voting is not only a right, but also a privilege.
"I felt like so many people, especially women and minorities, have worked so hard for me to have the opportunity to vote. I should take that opportunity and put it to use," Navarra said.
The reaction from most of the people that attended the voter registration drive was positive and many students registered. Many of those who did not said that they would try to come later.
One minor point of contention involved the candidate information pamphlets that organizers distributed.
Sorin Hall senator Cimarron Gilson who was upset that the pamphlet did not mention one of the candidates still in the race, Republican Alan Keyes.
"It's disappointing that they would fail to inform newly registered voters and they're starting them off with the `real political process,' which is dirty and messy," Gilson said. "For democracy's sake, it's fair to include all the candidates."
The pamphlet was an 8-by-11 sheet of paper, one side with the two major Republican candidates, George W. Bush and John McCain and the other with Democrat candidates Al Gore and Bill Bradley.
Organizers were limited on space when making the pamphlet, and so they included only the major candidates, Demidovich said.
"We were just trying to do the frontrunners like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal," she said, noting that Gilson could put together a pamphlet, which organizers would be willing to distribute at future drives.
The College Democrats and Republicans are planning upcoming registration drives, and will invite local and national candidates to speak after they receive their party nominations.
They maintain the belief that the increasing student awareness about politics will aid in better voter turnout for future elections.
"I am surprised at the number of people that came out, said College Democrat Chris White. "It's something that people don't get around to doing."
All News Stories for Friday, March 10, 2000