Alaskan college student voters significantly small in population

UAA's Info Desk set up registration booths around campus to educate students and help them register to vote. Photo by Brandon Hoxie/TNL

We see them standing there, in the hallway, at entrances to major buildings. They glance around waiting for an unsuspecting student to walk by. Then they strike, clipboards in hand.

“Are you registered to vote in the State of Alaska?”

Every year around voting season, masses of people gather around popular locations all over the school hoping to get dozens of signatures from college students for various petitions and ballot measures.

“If I see someone holding a clipboard, I avoid them at all costs. If I have no choice but to pass them, I say that I am not registered to vote even if I am,” said sophomore Allice Merill. “I know that if I say yes to one of them, I will be stuck there forever, and just be bothered again the next time I come across another one. I even have the same people ask me multiple times a day. It’s ridiculous.”

But besides the occasional aggravation of college students, are they really accomplishing what they set out to do? Are college students really the best demographic to target? Not all college students are above the age of 18, but even those that are old enough are not necessarily registered to vote. There is a large population of exchange students, transfer students, and the others who cannot or do not wish to vote.

When 30 students were asked whether they are registered to vote, 22 said no, leaving only 8 who were.
“What’s the point? It’s not like my one little vote will really matter. I don’t care about politics anyways,” said Amy Mitchell.
Similar responses were garnered from the other 21 students, mostly saying that they were not interested in the politics of Alaska, or even the issues in Anchorage.

Those that were registered to vote were generally older than 30 and were active in Anchorage’s community.

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In an effort to raise awareness, UAA dedicated an entire week to voter registration awareness. Booths were placed all around campus, giving out pizza and swag in an effort to get students to be aware that the registration deadline was fast approaching on March 4. While the majority of students stopped for the free pizza and swag, several did stop to register.

“Presidential elections are coming up sooner than we think, and registering will give everyone the opportunity to be a part of that, a

Flashy swag and voting information adorned tables all across campus last week. Photo by Brandon Hoxie/TNL

decision that effects our entire country,” said Jonathan Taylor. “What will happen to our country if the younger generations decide that they do not want to vote?”

Even though it appears that college students are not interested in voting, according to The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, 62 percent of college students voted in the 2008 presidential elections. So why are so many students at UAA not so interested?

“I don’t see any point. Besides Hawaii, Alaska is the last state to get votes counted for presidential elections and usually it means the winner is announced before they even get to us,” Erin Peterson said, explaining why she was not registered to vote. “As for the little issues like mayor and measures and stuff, they honestly are not that important to me.”

According to the US Census Bureau In 2008 only 304,000 Alaskans voted, a little less than 62 percent of the total population. Other states such as Utah with 1,022,000, West Virginia with 798,000, and even Rhode Island with 467,000 outshined Alaska’s voters in numbers. While several states had a smaller percentage of their population vote, the only state to have a lower turnout than Alaska in numbers was Wyoming with 250,000 votes total. However Numbers for the 2012 elections are expected to rise, but only time will tell.

“It is a shame that the younger students aren’t more active in participating in elections and votes. It is our given right as Americans and we are lucky to have that right, so everyone should be taking advantage of the opportunity,” said Taylor. “I think in the year to come, we should work to educate students about registering to vote, instead of waiting until a week before deadline to start spreading the word.”

Voting registration deadline was on March 4, but students will have the opportunity to register again next year.