Student voting rates lower than national trends

By Marissa Novel

Whether its entering the voting booth or logging on to Desire2Learn, youth voting in student and governmental elections is marginal.

Six percent of students voted last month in the student trustee election, a 2 percent increase since 2012.

Andy Morgan, acting associate dean of students, said students may be unaware of the importance of the student trustee position on the SIU Board of Trustees, as it approves tuition, fees, and hires.


“I think our students care about tuition and fees and how they continue to rise,” he said. “So they should have a voice on the board of trustees and they should let that student trustee know their concerns and issues.”

Morgan said students actively involved on campus, such as members of fraternities and sorities, and graduate students, are more inclined to vote than others.

He said many young people do not understand, are uninterested in, or are uninformed about governmental voting. He said this is apparent in this year’s midterm elections for governers, representatives and senators.

“We have people that won’t vote and I think the candidates know that, political parties know that, lobbyists know that so they cater to those who do vote,” he said.

About 60 percent of all Illinois citizens were registered to vote in the 2010 elections, while 45 percent of that population actually voted, the U.S. Census Bureau reported.

Registered voters ages 18 to 24 accounted for 45 percent of all citizens, but 21 percent of their total population actually voted, according to the bureau.

In the 2012 presidential election, 45 percent of citizens ages 18 to 29 voted, compared to 72 percent of citizens ages 65 and up, the bureau reported.


Charles Leonard, a political scientist and visiting professor for the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said voting difference in age can be attributed to maturation and cohort effects. He said the maturation effect occurs when groups of voters gain interest in government as they grow older.

“Your [age] group doesn’t vote as much as my group does,” he said. “But when your group is my age, you will because of the experiences that all people get as they become young marrieds, young parents, homeowners, and they see that they have more at stake in politics.”

Leonard said the cohort effect occurs when voters are grouped together based on their shared experiences.

Gregory Maddox, a lecturer in the sociology department, said student voter involvement in a large-scale sense may be low because young people lack a sociological imagination.

“The sociological imagination is the ability for people to see how social issues matter; what is it that makes somebody’s personal trouble a social issue,” he said.

Maddox said people must be critical, abstract thinkers to develop this imagination.

“A lot of people, young and old, don’t really have that [ability],” Maddox said. “It’s a generational thing I suppose in that a lot of young people don’t feel as connected because they’re still in school, they’re not out there with a job and a family.”

Meera Komarraju, the chair of the psychology department, said busyness of student life can affect student voting on the individual level.

“You’re younger, you’re still discovering yourself and what you want and who you are,” she said. “So as you’re immersed in that experience, the other things seem more distant.”

Komarraju said social norms and access to voting booths also influence voting rates.

Josh Abell, a senior from Harrisburg studying pre-medical sciences, said he did not vote in the trustee election.

“I didn’t vote because I didn’t know we were even having elections and that could have been due to me being busy with course load,” he said.

Jessica Nelson, a senior from Lake Zurich studying advertising and photography, said she did not vote in the trustee election and she does not plan on voting in any elections this year.

“I just don’t know a lot about that stuff, so I don’t want to vote for something I don’t know anything about,” she said.

Caroline Thoma, a senior from Columbia studying theater, said she voted in the trustee election.

“I saw it all around campus and thought I might as well vote,” she said.

Thoma said she plans on voting for governmental elections.

“I think it’s your right to vote,” she said. “It’s just a good thing that we have and if you don’t use it, then why have it?”

Thoma said she previously served as an election judge, or someone responsible for proper and orderly voting, in the last presidential election in her hometown.

On campus polling places for the coming election are Grinnell and Lentz Halls as well as the Student Center.

Marissa Novel can be reached at [email protected]on Twitter @marissanovelDE or at 536-3311 ext. 268