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Campus vote trails national youth average

By Peter Shahin, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 8, 2012

The old adage that history is made by those who show up may not be true at the University.

Despite high youth voter turnout across the country, Ann Arbor’s student-dominated areas turned out in numbers well below the national youth average on Election Day.

In regions surrounding Central Campus and the two precincts including the residential areas of North Campus, the average turnout rate was 36.2 percent. Ballots were cast by 10,110 people in these areas out of an overall population of 27,936 registered voters. The student-area turnout paled in comparison to the overall Washtenaw County turnout of 64.5 percent.

Ward 4, precinct 1, which votes in The Michigan Union, had the highest percentage turnout in the student areas of Ann Arbor with participation of 43.43 percent of the precincts’s registered voters. In contrast, Ward 2, precinct 3 had the lowest turnout with only 28.74 percent of the region’s voters going to the polls. These figures do not include students that may have voted absentee for locales outside of Ann Arbor, but those students were also not included in the overall number of registered voters.

On Wednesday, The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, a research organization based at Tufts University in Massachusetts, announced that exit polls on Tuesday revealed that 49 percent of people under the age of 30 voted this year. This number is on par or slightly below 2008’s estimated minimum turnout, of an estimated 48.3 percent, which eventually rose to 52 percent according to CIRCLE.

The report also stated that on average, voters under 30 favored President Barack Obama by a 24-percent margin over Mitt Romney. The 49-percent overall turnout was the second highest, behind only 2008, since the center started recording exit poll data in 1996. However, the number may rise as contested and late ballots are counted in the coming weeks.

Had Romney won even half the youth vote, according to the report’s analysis, he would have won the Electoral College and the presidency.

Speaking on Tuesday night, Political Science Prof. Michael Heaney said this election couldn’t match the spirit of the 2008 campaign, and the excitement was more of a reversion to the mean.

“I would say that this was probably a typical election in terms of excitement, but it was clearly less than 2008 when there was an exceptionally high level of excitement,” Heaney said. “This was typical — perhaps a little bit below average.”

According to exit poll data collected by the Associated Press, Romney won the white vote 59 percent to 39 percent, while Obama carried all other racial groups surveyed. Across the nation, Obama carried 50 percent of college-educated voters and 51 percent of non-college educated voters. Romney had the support of 48 percent and 47 percent of those respective categories.

Aaron Kall, the director of the University Debate Team, said on Tuesday night that Obama’s success largely relied on high turnout from minority and younger voters.

“The turnout was the most important thing — there was a high percent of turnout among the African-American and Latino vote, and also the young vote,” Kall said. “In some of those categories the turnout was even higher than in 2008.”

Kall added that Republican-backed efforts to enforce or create new voter identification laws in several states motivated many minorities and youth voters to exercise their voting rights in response to these proposals.

“I think some of these actions backfired and caused a larger turnout in 2012,” Kall said.

Daily News Editor Andrew Schulman contributed to this report.