COLUMBIA–While most Columbia residents headed to the polls today, some took part in a different election day pastime: not voting.
The secretary of state's office predicted 72 percent of registered voters in Missouri would participate and some predictions have the total vote tally in Missouri surpassing 3 million for the first time, but that still leaves millions more that won't be heard or choose not to speak at the polls today.
MU political science professor Peverill Squire said more people have been voting in recent elections, primarily because the population is getting older. He said we should expect relatively high turnout over the next decade. People that don't vote tend to be younger and less established in the communities they live in, and they often rationalize that their vote won't matter.
"Younger people are less attached to their communities and are less involved politically," Squire said. "The act of voting does not take that much time or energy."
At the Columbia Area Senior Center Tuesday, most seniors playing bridge and pool had already voted or were on their way to the polls in the afternoon, but Raymond Rice, 86, said he has had enough with politicians and was abstaining from now on.
"They ain't got no one running," Rice said while he lined up a pool shot. "They aren't nothing but a bunch of crooks."
Rice said that he has always voted in the past and supported Barack Obama in the 2008 election, but he is now tossing away the ballot altogether.
"I think I'm through voting for good. I just don't care nothing about voting anymore," he said.
Rachel President, 26, works for an organization that helps organize volunteers for local senior and community centers. She said she has paid attention to the election, but was not voting because she doesn't believe any politician understands the challenges people face.
"Until they get someone that has been in poverty and knows how things are out here, I'm not gonna vote," she said. "They haven't lived the problems that people are facing, so they can't understand them."
President said she recognizes that the decisions politicians make directly impact her life, including the school system, jobs and higher wages.
"Maybe us younger people just don't understand what it means to vote," she said. "Like me."
Political science research suggests that increased turnout may have less of an impact on election results than many politicians and journalists believe, however.
A 2004 study by University of California-Davis scholar Benjamin Highton argues: "On the whole, there are small differences between voters and nonvoters in terms of of their partisan and policy preferences."
The study also surveyed past research that modeled the possible results of universal turnout and concluded that even drastically increased turnout would have done little to alter actual election results.
Of course, not all nonvoters are allowed to vote; some are too young and some aren't U.S. citizens.
MU student and Chinese citizen Lucas Liu, 22, said he has paid attention to the election this year and compared it to the political transition that is likely to occur in his home country later this month.
"There are a lot of advertisements, but I like it," he said Tuesday. "You've got two campaigns that are trying to convince people to vote for them. It is great."
Liu said he expects, or at least hopes, that China will transition toward something like American democracy at some point in his life.
Asked why she wasn't voting, five-and-a-half-year-old Carina Freund said, "Because I am not past 18 years old."
If she could vote, however, Freund knew who she would pick.
"Obama! Obama! Obama!" she said.
Supervising editor is John Schneller.