Young voters a ‘sleeping dog’

PSU has become a hub for voter registration campaigns seekingout unregistered college age voters because few young people areturning up at the polls. Due to the lack of young voters, issuesthat affect young people tend to be ignored by politicians. Thevoting numbers from young people are not high enough to givepoliticians a reason to care.

Instead, politicians tend to focus on the 65- to 74-year-oldvoters who make up the majority of the voting population.

According to the Feminist Majority Foundation, an organizationdedicated to women’s equality, in 2000 72 percent of 78 percent ofregistered 65-74 year olds voted. Only 36.1 percent of registered18-24 year olds voted.

Jessie Raeder, a campus organizer with the Feminist Majority,says 18-21 year olds have the shortest record of voting, having hadthe right to vote for about thirty years.

She says that it takes time to build up voters and a youngvoting population would develop faster if politicians addressedyoung people’s issues.

Politicians don’t know what those issues are because not enoughyoung people vote.

Because of a low voter turnout from America’s young votingpopulation, issues that generally affect older citizens like SocialSecurity and Medicare, both hotly debated issues in the 2000presidential elections, make up the core of politicians’ votingcampaigns because they have to cater to majority voters’concerns.

If less then half of the eligible youth population votes at thisyear’s elections, like they did in 2000, then issues likereproductive rights, national security, civil rights and theprotection of environmental resources are left in the hands ofolder voters.

So why aren’t young people voting?

Melody Rose, a political science teacher at PSU, says part ofthe reason for this is that many 18-25 year olds are highlytransient and out-of-state college students have a difficult timeregistering to vote.

The state of civic education in the K-12 level in schools alsoaddresses what Rose considers to be a part of the lack of youngvoters in America. Schools have become a place to train people toget jobs rather then a place to train students to becomecitizens.

Young people don’t have the training to be active and educatedvoters.

“America is falling behind in our grasp of our history and ourconstitution,” says Rose.

The inadequate knowledge the average American citizen has abouttheir own country’s history and policies is evident in the civiceducation proficiency tests given to immigrants applying for U.S.Citizenship.

Rose gives that test out in some of her classes and says moststudents fail it.

Education in schools isn’t the only way to improve historicaland constitutional knowledge. Rose says that when people registerto vote they begin to pay attention to public issues and that’swhat politicians are afraid of. Politicians don’t seek out youngvoters because they don’t know how young people feel about publicissues and don’t know how they’ll vote.

Rose says Republicans are afraid of waking up the “sleeping dog”with young voters, the sleeping dog being young Democrats.

Raeder says there is a lot of opposition to students voting atthe local level, because in a small town, especially one with ahigh college student population, students could take overelections.

If young people were mobilized and voted, not only could theytake over the elections in a small town, they could change thepolitical landscape in many states and possibly across America,according to Raeder.

Since that mobilization won’t come from the hands of politiciansthen it must come from the hands of young voters, Raeder said.