By Jacob Beach
When it comes to the 2012 election, college students may be a deciding factor.
Junior Tim Alford, president of College Republicans, emphasized that point. “Student voters are extremely important,” Alford said.
“For many students, this is the first presidential election they are able vote in. Accordingly, they can be a huge base for candidates to attract new supporters.”
Student voters make up nearly a quarter of the electorate, according to RockTheVote Initiative, which means they can make a difference in the outcomes of the election.
According to President of College Democrats senior Pablo Villa, however, student voters do not always participate enough in politics to actually make this crucial difference.
“Students voters are part of a group of voters that are not considered part of the normal voting population,” Villa said. “Thus, when they come out and vote in large numbers, they can swing an entire election.”
Students at OWU have various reasons for voting, but both Alford and Villa agree students tend to vote mainly because of social issues.
Alford said students prioritize social issues over economic ones, which he said he believes is wrong.
“They should understand that the state of the economy is the most important issue in this election,” he said.
“This includes the budget, government spending, Social Security, medical care and jobs.”
Many students voting in this year’s election were too young to vote in the last presidential election.
Senior David Mertz said this will be his first time voting.
“I have not voted before because I was only 17 in the last election,” Mertz said. “I do not think that a single vote makes a difference, but that line of thinking becomes very dangerous. If that thought is too widespread, it can severely shift the outcome of the election because so many people have opted to not vote.”
Mertz says he is voting because of several social and economic issues he feels very strongly about, and about which there are large differences in opinion by the two candidates.
Junior Matt Wasserman said he thinks his vote counts. “My vote will decide the election, just as everyone’s vote decides an election,” Wasserman said.
Sophomore Thomas DeHaas said he will be a first time voter and agrees that his vote will make a difference.
“I do feel my vote will count,” DeHaas said. “Some people make the argument that their vote can have little affect when it is surrounded by a million other votes.
“Everyone does in fact only have one vote to cast; therefore, yes, everyone’s single vote is only one among millions, but it is that one among millions that makes up the million after all, (so) everyone’s vote is important,” he said.
Project Vote released a report in late 2009 tracking the numbers of student voters and how they have increased over the years.
“Compared to 2000, turnout among voters under the age of 30 increased in each of the past two presidential cycles.
“This increase in turnout, coupled with population growth, resulted in 6.5 million more votes from the under 30 age group in 2008 than in 2000,” the report stated.
Many students at OWU are registering in Ohio due to the fact that it is a swing state.
Senior AJ Alonzo, a Massachusetts resident, said he will be voting in Ohio.
“Previously, voting in my home state meant nothing due to its long tenured past on voting democratically,” Alonzo, said.
“Now my vote actually counts due to the diversity of voters Ohio has to offer.”
Senior Olivia Gillison said she thinks those who do not vote forfeit their right to complain.
“If you don’t vote, then you have no voice and, in my opinion, no right to complain about issues going on with our government,” Gillison said.
Alonzo said he has a similar view.
“I’m given that privilege (to vote) and to not do so would be an insult to the majority of people in the world who cannot vote,” Alonzo said.
“Also, because I feel as if I don’t, I can’t take any glory, or blame for that matter, in the aftermath of the inevitable policies that are passed.”
The university has made an effort to help accommodate student voters.
It offered free shuttle rides to students who wished to take advantage of early voting, which was sponsored by the Arneson Institute for Practical Politics.
Students have also taken action to help in the election. Both Villa and Alford said their organizations have gotten many students involved.
Villa and Alford said they do not care how people vote, as long as they are educated.
“Regardless of party affiliation, the vote needs to be an educated vote,” Alford said.
“Students need to educate themselves about the candidates and the issues, and then go out and have their voice be heard at the voting booths once they are properly informed.”