At the dawn of a fresh round of elections, many Wesleyan students are gearing up for the polls, as are hoards of college students across the country.
According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, college-educated young people were among the most well-represented in the 2012 elections. College students flocked to the polls en masse, favoring Barack Obama by a 23-point margin.
However, polls by the Pew Research Center after the 2012 presidential election suggested that fewer young voters registered for that election than for the previous one in 2008, down 11 points from 66 to 55 percent.
Many speculated that this was partially due to diminished enthusiasm compared to the 2008 campaign, while others pointed to a slew of controversial voter ID and early registration laws that had been implemented in many states in the months leading up to the 2012 election.
Nevertheless, young people traditionally show a lower turnout than their older counterparts regardless of the election, and their overall numbers in non-presidential elections have historically been much lower than in presidential elections.
With elections approaching on Nov. 4, political outlets are abuzz with information about upcoming congressional, senatorial, and gubernatorial elections, including 435 seats for the biannual House election, 36 Senate seats, including 3 up for special election; and 36 governors’ offices.
Among these is the race between current Democratic Governor of Connecticut Dannel Malloy and the Republican nominee Tom Foley, who lost to Malloy by a narrow margin in the 2010 gubernatorial election. Malloy visited campus in early June to commemorate the opening of Wesleyan’s new auxiliary power micro-grid, which received state funding as part of an ongoing energy project in Connecticut.
For those hoping to vote in the election, voting laws in Connecticut have become a focus of controversy in recent months. Connecticut voter laws are relatively strict compared to those in other New England states, forbidding absentee voting without an approved excuse.
Veronica Birdsall ’15, a resident of Litchfield, Conn., is currently registered to vote with her home address.
“Honestly, they don’t really follow up on whether your excuse is legit,” Birdsall said. “Honestly [I am registered in Litchfield] mostly because I had already registered there in high school and didn’t feel like going through the process of changing it.”
Birdsall also spoke in support of a referendum on the ballot in the upcoming election to ease some of Connecticut’s early voting restrictions.
“[It’s] not too bad since I had an excuse,” she said. “I couldn’t come home on Election Day due to lack of transportation…. But on the ballot is an Amendment to the Connecticut constitution to implement no-excuse absentee voting! So I voted for that.”
Earl Lin ’15 of New Haven, Conn. is also registered to vote in his home district.
“I’ve been registered at my home address in New Haven since I turned 18 and became eligible to vote,” he said. “Since it’s only about half an hour away and I wanted to continue voting in municipal primarily, mayoral, [and] aldermanic elections at home, it seemed most convenient and to make the most sense to keep my registration in New Haven.”
However, in the past, he has chosen to vote absentee.
“I did vote absentee for at least one election, but since one of the reasons for requesting an absentee ballot is that one is absent from town during an election, it was pretty straightforward to request a ballot,” Lin said. “I actually didn’t realize no-excuse voting was something some states do. I think it would be better if Connecticut offered early voting, though, as absentee ballots are sometimes not even counted unless the election is close. Regardless of its impact on the election, it’s nice to know that your vote has actually been counted.”
In 2012, Connecticut legislators approved a law legalizing online voting in the state. The online voter registration form is run by the Office of the Secretary of the State, and voters can use the website to register anew, as well as register with a change of address. The site closed on Thursday, Oct. 22 and will remain closed until election day.
For students coming from other states, however, there is also the consideration of whether to register in their home states or in Connecticut.
Andreas Streuli ’15 has voted in his home state of California for previous elections.
“I voted in 2012 out of state,” he said. “San Mateo County constantly sends me materials. I think I may be registered in Connecticut now because I keep getting called for jury duty.”
Streuli listed among his reasons for voting out of state a feeling that his vote would go further in California, which receives 55 electoral votes in presidential elections compared with Connecticut’s 7.
“I’m afraid my reason for registering to vote in California was just because it holds quite a bit more influence than Connecticut,” Streuli said.
Matthew Conley ’15 of New York, another state that tends to vote consistently Democratic in elections, echoed Streuli’s sentiments.
“I’m from New York, so I’m voting between two very blue states,” Conley said. “So where I register to vote in any given race depends on who has a more competitive congressional or senatorial race in a given cycle.”
Conley also expressed interest in out-of-state voting due to differences in state politics.
“I volunteered for a state Senate campaign the summer between my freshman and sophomore years,” he said. “Honestly, state legislature is where important decisions are made, and state legislature in New York is weird because it’s much more heavily Republican than the state as a whole in national elections.”
For students considering voting in Connecticut who have yet to register, forms can still be returned in person at the Registrar’s office by Oct. 28. Additionally, vans will be running between Usdan and local polling centers on Nov. 4 for students voting in local elections.