Up for Grabs
Political races coming down to wire as experts, supporters look toward polls on Election Day
For months, students, city officials, candidates and volunteers have worked to prepare for today’s election — whether it was registering voters, campaigning or canvassing for their favorite candidate.
This morning, election officials were scheduled to arrive at the polls by 5:45 a.m., setting up voting booths in preparation for roughly 3,000 new voters, plus thousands who already are registered.
The combination of the high-profile presidential and local elections on the ballot and an influx of new voters could lead to long lines at East Lansing precincts and high voter turnout similar to the
Rock the vote
In preparation for this year’s race, East Lansing City Hall, 410 Abbot Road, has processed more than 3,000 new voter registrations and has seen many student groups helping to register voters.
This increased interest in voting, combined with the recent influx of freshmen admitted to MSU and a population rise in East Lansing as a whole, has led City Clerk Marie McKenna to anticipate a large voter turnout this election.
Monday morning, more absentee voter ballots were issued than in the 2008 election with hundreds projected to be received by the deadline at 8 p.m. tonight.
“Simply, there are more people in East Lansing,” McKenna said. “People are very passionate about the issues. There’s been a lot of education about getting out to vote … being a university town, having the opportunity to engage and discuss policy in the classroom — that translates to voting.”
As a result of more registered voters, McKenna said a new precinct could be in the works for future elections, which would make voting easier for some students — a critical demographic experts say has been harder to persuade to vote.
Because of this, social relations and policy sophomore Rawley Van Fossen said volunteering at a Democratic calling center was important to spread the word to student voters, who carry more weight in the election than they might realize.
“The student vote is so important,” Van Fossen said. “If you look at the 2008 election, (Obama) was elected by youth vote; they carried the election in 2008 … with regards to college affordability, health insurance … all those touch base and relate to
Because the student vote was unreliable in the past, MSU College Republicans vice chair Cody Hibbs said their showing in 2008 made a large difference in the outcome of the election, and this year’s outcome is up in the air, depending on the student vote.
Assistant professor of political science Matt Grossmann also said the large numbers of volunteers and advertising in the campaigns for this election likely will encourage some students who were on the fence.
Recently, groups such as MSU’s YouVote initiative, as well as groups of volunteers associated with candidates and specific parties, have grown in numbers to work with the city to register students prior to this election, Grossmann said.
“We went through a period in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s where parties weren’t working to turn people out to vote … now, most voters receive some kind of contact to get them to turn out,” Grossmann said. “That makes a difference.”
Crunching the numbers
Students and experts agreed that the numbers for this election most likely will be similar to what was seen in the 2008 election, if not higher.
“If you’re in a college town, you’re in a highly educated town, which is another part,” Grossmann said. “Education is another big predictor if you’ll turn out … (You have a combination of) young people driving the low turnout and the educated population driving higher turnout.”
Although the election might not have as much hype as the last election, MSU College Democrats President Stephen Wooden said he still feels the excitement within the university.
“The energy level might not be as sensational (as four years ago), but I believe there is still a strong enthusiasm on this campus to get the student voice heard,” Wooden said.
McKenna said the mix of the high-profile presidential and local races featured in this election will encourage excitement among students and bring a high number of voters to the polls.
“Obviously, (the) presidential race is going to be a hot issue, but locally, I think we have really important issues,” McKenna said. “54-B (District Court judge) and state representative races are of great interest locally … all of those things contribute to a great turnout.”