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Young voter turnout low for national election

KEVIN B. KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
From left, sophomore majoring in Spanish Jesse Yarbrough, senior majoring in Spanish Kelli Riesinger and biology senior Jocelyn Margulia watch President George W. Bush's acceptance speech yesterday afternoon in the TV lounge in the Student Union Memorial Center.
By Natasha Bhuyan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 4, 2004
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Although the national voter turnout in Tuesday's presidential election was the highest it has been since 1968, the heavily courted 18- to 24-year-old demographic remained virtually the same, despite the push to get them to the polls.

According to The Associated Press, an estimated 9 percent of voters fell within the 18 to 24 range, while the 18 to 29 age bracket accounted for 17 percent of overall voters, figures that parallel the 2000 election.

Although the numbers indicate young voters proportionally were the same as four years ago, the actual number of young voters was higher this year as the overall turnout was higher.

Dylan Moore, a pre-physiological sciences sophomore, said because of the persistent campus efforts to encourage voting, he was surprised more students did not go to the polls.

"I guess people don't care. ... It's sad," Moore said.

The 18 to 25 demographic was the target of massive national and local campaigns encouraging voting this year, with voter registration drives, political speakers, social events and even an early polling station on campus.

Megan Wood, an undeclared freshman, said although students were more educated on the issues, many did not vote simply because they forgot to request an absentee ballot or "never got around to it."

But campus groups such as the College Republicans, Young Democrats and Associated Students of the University of Arizona said they believe their efforts were not in vain.

Pete Seat, state chairman for the UACR, said he knew of College Republican members who did not vote for various reasons, but said members' efforts in campaigning, going door to door and calling undecided voters were worthwhile.

However, Alicia Cybulski, president of the UAYD, pointed out the Young Democrats were locally successful as Kerry won the election in Pima County, with 52 percent of the vote, and voter turnout was higher than previous years.

According to Chris Roads, registrar of voters, Pima County is expected to have an 80 to 83 percent voter turnout, up from 78 percent in 2000. As of yesterday, the turnout was 66 percent, but 60,000 ballots remained uncounted.

Alistair Chapman, president of ASUA, said watching the line of 300 people at the UA polling station last week was an illustration of their success.

"I really think that our efforts were very effective," Chapman said. "I was impressed with the involvement of students in this election, the awareness."

Campus organizations registered 2,600 students, while 2,300 people voted at the UA's first early polling site.

Rob Bovill, a physics graduate student, said he was surprised there was not a surge in student voters across the nation. Bovill said if more students had voted, he believes Kerry would be president.

According to Knight Ridder Newspapers, the only age demographic Kerry won was the 18 to 29 bracket, by a 54-44 margin.

Melissa Zaverton, an electrical engineering freshman who volunteered for the Democratic campaign, said she believes her efforts were worthwhile and the results have not deterred her optimism.

"I'm looking toward the next election," Zaverton said.

In his concession speech, Kerry thanked his supporters and pledged to do his best to bridge the partisan divide, encouraging Bush to do the same.

Bush echoed the message in his victory speech, telling Democrats he wants to earn their support in order to make the nation stronger.

Kris Brandt, an engineering physics junior, said Bush's victory speech was encouraging as he pledged to earn the support of all Americans and attempt to unite the nation.

"You want him to earn support, not just have (people) support him with blind faith," Brandt said.

But students across campus said unity in such a divided nation will take time.

Damien Ferrario, a graduate student in engineering who moved to America a month ago from Switzerland, said he fears Bush's victory will continue to divide America and erode America's foreign relations.

"For the world stability, it's very dangerous," Ferrario said. "He has divided the world into two parts: those for Bush and those who don't support him."

But Eva Bahnimpt, a physiology junior, said it is important Americans support Bush for the good of the nation.

Students went to bed Nov. 2 not knowing who the next president would be. Ballots were still being counted in Ohio. Some expected a decision in 10 days, but Kerry conceded yesterday.

Jacob Eavis, a political science sophomore, said he thinks Kerry should have fought for a victory longer because with Bush remaining in office, many people will not get the changes they hoped for.

"It's such a divided nation," Eavis said. "A lot of discontent, people feel left out and unhappy."

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