The 2008 presidential election had the second-largest turnout of young voters in American history. Between 22 and 24 million young people voted, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). As the presidential election in 2012 approaches, speculations are arising that youth turnout will be significantly lower than in 2008.

“We saw during the 2010 midterm election the lack of excitement to vote amongst young people,” said Krystal Leaphart, president of Howard University’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). “An election should not be glamorous for college students to get to the polls.”

Like many student organizations across the country, Howard’s NAACP chapter is starting now to increase voter turnout among college students in 2012.

“We are doing voter registration once a week in the bottom of the student center,” Leaphart said. “Hopefully, by our efforts, students at Howard will be reminded of the importance of voting.”

Partisan student groups, such as College Democrats, work to boost voter morale among students. Howard University’s chapter of College Democrats is now re-launching after being inactive since the 2008 election. This election has spurred many chapters to try to reinvigorate their campuses about 2012.

“I believe students will be excited to vote in 2012,” said Katie Breslin, president of College Democrats at Trinity University. “A lot of current college students were too young to vote in 2008 and are ready for their voice to be heard now.”

Politikool, a non-partisan student organization targeting ages 18 to 29, was started by college students in Florida. Its mission is not only to increase voter turnout among young people, but also to educate voters.

Some voters encounter ballots filled with unfamiliar names and information. Blindly, individuals vote without knowing whether or not their ballots reflect their beliefs.

“We want to make sure young voters know what they are voting about,” said Rebecca Colett, a senior at Florida A&M University and vice president of Politikool “Currently, a lot is going on in America that directly pertains to us. Legislation changing financial aid, health care and the economy will affect our immediate future. We should know about this before we vote.”

By starting now, organizations hope to create passion among students about politics and what to expect in this upcoming election.

“Many of us do not know our power in elections,” Leaphart said. “When we are mad at what is going on in this country, voting is what gets our point across – 2008 was exciting, but our work as young voters is not over; 2012 is our next opportunity for our voice to be truly heard.”

 

Shanel Adams

Howard University News Service