Students scarce at polling places

Wednesday, April 5, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:37 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

Election officials at a municipal polling place in Memorial Union, at the heart of the MU campus, said they had not seen a single student voter as of midafternoon Tuesday.

Some students blamed a lack of time, while others said they were unaware of the issues. A few didn’t even know people were voting today.

“I didn’t realize there was an election today until I heard about it in a class,” said MU student Tom Woodson.

Other students knew about the election, but still stayed away from the polls.

Drew Stewart, an agricultural journalism major, said he feels bad that he did not make the time to go vote.

“I didn’t hear anything about it,” Stewart said. “If I knew the issues, I’d be there.”

James Smith, an election official at the Campus Lutheran Church, in the Sixth Ward, said the lack of student interest in this election is worrisome because the Sixth Ward, which is voting for a new council member, has a large student population. Smith said “a fair number of students” had voted at that location throughout the day.

Jerry Wade, who officiated the election at the Memorial Union location, said he hadn’t seen any students as of 2 p.m.

“Students tend not to take an issue in local issues unless they are controversial,” Wade said.

Patricia Wixon, who volunteered with Wade, said students are not interested in local elections because they do not pay taxes or care about the school board.

Some students said they would have voted had they been more aware of the issues.

“I didn’t see any news, flyers or activities,” said MU student Jesse Garwood. “I would have (voted) if I had known.”

Garwood said publicizing municipal elections in the resident halls might attract more student attention.

But other students said they wouldn’t vote even if they had been aware of the issues.

“Even if I did I wouldn’t vote,” said MU student Ryan Schroeder. “Does all that affect MU students a lot?”

While some students didn’t vote because they were not aware of the issues, others said they were not registered in Columbia.

Stephanie Peterson, an MU sophomore from Montana who lives in the Sixth Ward, still considers herself a resident of her home state.

“I care more about Montana issues than Columbia issues,” she said.

Allison Singh, a student from St. Louis, had a similar perspective.

“I live here for MU, but I don’t focus on Columbia politics,” Singh said.

It’s not only students that failed to show up at the polls, election officials said.

Memorial Union election official Larry Wyatt II said municipal elections usually draw a low turnout, even among longtime residents.

Karl Miller, an election official at Campus Lutheran Church, said he has noticed similar trends.

“Not many people vote unless there’s a hot button issue,” Miller said.

Wyatt agreed. “Controversy brings out voters.”

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