Why you might not vote May 8

On May 8, the hottest items on the N.C. ballot will be picking a candidate in the Republican pimary and voting on Amendment One, which bans all forms of legally recognized marriages other than those between and man and a woman.

Will even one of these two reasons be enough to draw N.C. college students to the polls?

Taking into account that final exams for UNC, Duke University and N.C. State University end May 4, May 5 and May 9 respectively, meaning many will have no structure on May 8 because the semester has ended and their summer job hasn’t started, here are the predictions for who would bother to fill out a ballot in the May primaries.

With an assignment of reporting on voter apathy, I started with asking friends.

“Yes, I am an apathetic voter. Why do you care?” was a common response.

College students might have Tweeted about Rep. Anthony Weiner sending a lewd picture of himself to all his Twitter followers, or shared a campaign video of Rick Perry’s on a friend’s Facebook wall for a good laugh, but they are unlikely to turn out at the polls to vote for or against these politicians.

They, like the rest of America, are suffering from voter apathy.

But one friend caught me off-guard when I asked him if he voted.

“Of course I vote! I have to exercise my civic duty,” said Jack Zapple, and it should be noted that his father is running for county commissioner of New Hanover County. “If anything, it’s because so few in the world can.”

Very true. Let’s compare the U.S.’s voting situation to Afghanistan’s. Afghanistan held its first election in 2004, which had an 83 percent turnout from the registered voters and 67 percent turnout from the voting age population, according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Although the voting day was relatively peaceful, nearly 1,000 people, including U.S. troops, election workers and Afghan voters, were reported killed by Associated Press in 2004 before the election. 

Threatened by attacks from the Taliban and other armed opposition groups, Afghans have voted less in subsequent elections. In 2010, possibly plus or minus a few fraud ballots, 45.8 percent of the registered voters and only 29.7 percent of the voting age population cast a ballot.

Now let’s think about voting in the U.S. Those passionate about U.S. citizens exercising their civic duty popped the champagne bottles in 2008 when 5 million more people voted in the presidential election than in 2004, with a total of 49 percent of the registered 18-to-24-year-old  voters and  64 percent turnout for the voting age population, according to the U.S. Census.

In other words, for the two countries’ most popular elections of the past decade, four out of five registered voters cast a ballot in Afghanistan despite insurgent attacks, compared to three out of five registered voters in the U.S.

Some complain that the right to vote is still threatened in the U.S. by states passing laws requiring identification cards at the polls, or adding other steps to the voting process,  but the real problem is that people just don’t care or bother.

On May 8, the North Carolina ballot will include democratic governor nominations, Republican presidential candidate nominations and Amendment One, banning gay marriage and unrecognizing all relationships other than marriage between a man and a woman.

In the May primaries for 2008, Wake County, where N.C. State University is located, saw a 39.2 percent turnout; Orange County, holding UNC, saw a 48.5 percent turnout; and Durham County, containing Duke University, saw at 51.27 percent turnout. There are hot issues on the ballot for both registered Republicans and Democrats, but since none of the Republican candidates have made as trendy campaign posters as Barack Obama did in 2008, it is unclear whether the actual candidates and issues at hand will be enough to get the Triangle Area college students to vote.

Taking into account that final exams for UNC, Duke University and N.C. State University end May 4, May 5 and May 9 respectively, meaning many will have no structure on May 8 because the semester has ended and their summer job hasn’t started, here are the predictions for who would bother to fill out a ballot in the May primaries. What do you think?

  1. Don’t forget to about early voting! May 8 might be inconvenient but there are a lot of other opportunities to cast a ballot!

    Comment by Nathan Westmoreland on April 6, 2012 at 12:22 pm

  2. Good point about the actual date of election day after a lot of folks have left campus, but there is early voting, which won't interfere with exams or packing up. In addition to locations around the county (http://www.co.orange.nc.us/elect/documents/onestopsites2012.pdf), you can cast an early ballot right on campus:

    Ram’s Head Dining Hall , 2nd floor
    Monday – Friday – 4/ 23 – 4/ 27 – 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
    Saturday, 4/ 28 – 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
    Monday – Friday – 4/ 30 – 5/ 4 – 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
    Saturday, 5/ 5 – 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

    Comment by Margot Lester on April 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm

  3. I'll vote!

    Comment by Hank on April 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm

  4. This seems like a humorous editorial with good facts but since this is online it doesn't make it clear enough that this is obviously a lot of broad generalization and opinion based writing. I don't understand what 'no structure' means in regards to voting? As the previous commenter noted early voting starts in late April so students actually have weeks to vote, not just on May 8th and it is located on campus, so it is easily accessible to students.

    The point about not having 'trendy posters' like Obama in 2008 is I'm sure meant as a humorous reference to the iconic 'HOPE' image that was plastered everywhere but as someone who personally knows a lot of people who worked incredibly hard on campaigning with and engaging college students in 2008 I think it is border line over the top to say that 'posters' are what put him over the edge. The Obama campaign made a concerted effort to reach out to young people and had an aggressive field plan and outreach strategy for months to match. The reason why student's don't vote isn't just laziness, a lot of student's don't know the impact of local political decisions on their daily lives. It's too easy to say 'people don't care' and then let the issue go. What is more difficult and a far more productive conversation that needs to be had is how can we show students that their influence and civic participation can transform regional political power and discourses.

    Comment by Zaina on April 7, 2012 at 3:32 pm