Piper power at the polls

As midterm elections draw nearer, will Hamline students turn out to vote?

Kelly Holm, Senior Reporter

November is coming, but before turkey time arrives, there is election day. With the deadline of online voter registration already passed and  less than two weeks to go until Nov. 6, the question of whether college students will turn out for the 2018 midterm elections still looms.

“I definitely plan to [vote],” senior Peter Villerius said. “It’ll only be my second time voting… I do get the strong sense from all the issues that are consistently coming up in the news, and just in the country in general, that it’s going to be very important to make sure we have representatives in Congress who can properly advocate for the right side of these things, or at least what I believe to be the right side, so that’s why I think I should put my voice in there and get my vote out.”

Sophomore Dieu Do also plans to cast a ballot.

“Yes, I’m planning to vote this November,” Do said. “Voting for Tina Smith as Senator is something I’m very excited about.”

Despite traditionally low numbers for student turnout in non-presidential year elections, Political Science Professor David Schultz expects to see high enthusiasm at Hamline on Nov. 6.

“If the national mood about the elections is applicable to Hamline, student turnout will be higher than in recent elections,” Schultz said. “There appears to be very high interest in the 2018 elections, especially among Democrats, and Hamline is a campus with a higher percentage of Democrats… Many students at Hamline are involved in campaigns, leading me to think we will see better turnout at this school than other colleges in the area.”

Online, one can find National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE) reports pertaining to student turnout in the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, as Hamline is among the schools which have chosen to make their voting data public. In 2016, 69 percent of eligible Hamline students cast ballots, compared with only 50.4 percent on campuses nationwide. The percentage of students voting was higher in 2012 than in 2016 at Hamline, and vice versa for all institutions.

For all class levels at Hamline, the 2012 election showed a higher turnout rate than the 2016 election, with first-year students being more likely than upperclassmen to cast ballots in both cycles.

“I am seeing about the same level of excitement in students this year as two years ago, if not perhaps a little more. This is significant since in non-presidential election years it is often hard to motivate students,” Schultz said.

Schultz also stated that out-of-state students are less likely to vote.

“[Often] they do not know [absentee ballots] exist or how to get them,” Schultz said, calling for greater civics education on campus.

Junior Myles Todman is one such out-of-state student.

“I haven’t thought about [voting], because I’m not from Minnesota,” Todman said. “If I vote, I’ll go back home and I won’t have to worry about Minnesota, but since I’m living here I should probably care more about what’s going to happen.”

Todman is from Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. While the Virgin Islands, like other American territories, elect a delegate to send to Congress, that representative can only participate in debates and committee votes, not final votes.

“I haven’t registered yet, but I’m planning to register,” Todman said.

Junior Erin Taylor said that she would probably vote, but added that she would need to research the candidates in order to do so.

“The main reason I don’t vote is because I’m not voting for a random person on a ballot,” Taylor said.

Nur Mood of the Wesley Center, who is the Coordinator of Social Justice Initiatives and Strategic Relations, Middle East/North Africa Region, feels positive about students’ actions come Election Day.

“At Hamline, students are very proactive in terms of voting,” Mood said.

Through the Wesley Center, Mood is working with HUSC on non-partisan voter registration efforts and will be giving free rides to the polls for all eligible Hamline students from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 6.