1000 E University Ave
Dept. 3226, Bureau of Mines
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: (307) 766-2379
Fax: (307) 766-6729
Whatever the excuse, Zach Parrie has probably heard it.
I don’t know anything about the candidates. I have too much homework. I can’t get to the polling location. And, of course, there’s this one: My vote doesn’t matter.
He’s still waiting for an excuse that can justify a University of Wyoming student’s decision to neglect his or her responsibility to vote in an election.
“I don’t know if there is one,” says Parrie, a graduate student from Laramie who serves as coordinator of Pokes Vote, a non-partisan UW campaign designed to maximize civic engagement and leadership development through voter education, registration and turn-out. “I understand why young people don’t vote. But it’s a right and a privilege for every American.”
Ahead of a Nov. 6 general election headlined by President Barack Obama’s bid for a second term in the Oval Office—the Democratic incumbent is being challenged by Republican Mitt Romney and third-party candidates Rocky Anderson (Justice), Virgil Goode (Constitution), Gary Johnson (Libertarian) and Jill Stein (Green)—Pokes Vote is again working to drive young voters to the ballot box.
Through mid-October, Pokes Vote had registered 617 students to vote this year and partnered with the League of Women Voters of Wyoming to produce a voter’s guide to educate students about local and statewide candidates.
Also, Pokes Vote has reached agreement with UW TransPark to provide shuttle service to and from the UW dormitories to polling places around Laramie on Election Day.
“We try to eliminate any excuses,” Parrie says.
There was no doubting the significance of the youth vote in the 2008 general election, when Obama captured 66 percent of votes from 18-to-29-year-olds, a key factor in his decisive victory over Republican John McCain, says Bo Newsome, coordinator of the National Campus Voter Registration Project and Your Vote, Your Voice.
With voter turnout among college-educated youth up 12 percentage points since 2000, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Education (CIRCLE), Newsome says it’s clear that university-based campaigns, such as Pokes Vote, are helping to drive stronger turnout among younger voters.
“Efforts such as Pokes Vote—that’s a great name, by the way—reflect one of higher education’s most basic responsibilities,” Newsome says. “The process of civic engagement helps students to develop their own personal viewpoint on the issues of the day. As a result, one student might decide to run for political office to make a change from the inside. Another may decide to create a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to address a specific community need.”
He adds, “The horizon is bright for all those Pokes that turn out to vote on Nov. 6.”
UW students who have registered to vote through Pokes Vote also commend the campaign’s efforts to engage young people in the democratic process.
“I know that many students are not as politically active as older people but they must understand that votes made now will affect decisions far into the future,” says Matthew Steidtmann, a graduate student from Laramie who earned his bachelor’s degree in physiology from UW in 2010. “People who do not express the right to vote are missing out and, in my opinion, being irresponsible to themselves and the people of this country.”
Elesif Smith, a graduate student from Jackson who is nearing graduation from the MBA Program in the UW College of Business, agrees. She has requested an absentee ballot from Teton County for the 2012 election.
“I think it’s very easy for people to feel like their vote won’t make a difference in the outcome of an election. However, if you take all the people who feel this way and make them vote, the outcome of an election could be very different,” she says. “I don’t think you can complain about anything that happens politically if you don’t utilize your right to vote. That’s why I will be voting!”
POLITICAL PARTY LINKS
Constitution Party: www.constitutionparty.com
Democratic Party: www.democrats.org
Green Party of the United States: www.gp.org
Justice Party: www.justicepartyusa.org
Libertarian Party: www.lp.orgRepublican Party:www.gop.com