Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The UWO Vote

The NW has a brief piece on voting at UWO today, citing the following turn-out numbers over the last three election cycles:

Registered voters: 4,177
Voters: 1,095

Registered voters: 5,964
Voters: 2,779

Registered voters: 4,167
Voters: 1,767

The charticle says these are the numbers for the city's 7th district, but here's the thing: not all students live in the district (though, admittedly, many, if not most, do) and, most importantly, not all students are registered here in Oshkosh. Many could have decided to vote locally and are registered in their respective home towns. I, for example, never voted once in the city I where I went to college because I was too busy voting absentee here (I never actually went to a polling place until well after I was of legal age).

The moral of the story is: I've never been satisfied with the accounting method of the "student vote" in this country. This isn't just a NW problem, but a problem across the board. According to the number above the turnout rate at UWO has been 26.2% (in 2002), 46.6% (in 2004), 42.4% (in 2006). These numbers seem low to me, especially since Wisconsin apparently has the 2nd highest turnout rate among "young voters" in the country.

Looking at figures from a specific district may give someone the ability to judge "youth" turnout by extrapolating from the set of numbers of students who actually did register in the district, but I've always been weary of this kind of data, if for no other reason than my own personal experience. There really should be a better way of accounting for the student vote. In my heart of hearts, I think it's the University that should be responsible for this type of information (theoretically, they should be able to find a statistics professor, or something, that could pull these kinds of numbers together on a regular basis). That way UWO could also try to make a big deal about constantly getting voter participation up among the student body.

But that's just me.


Ronald Kane Hardy said...

The other aspect to this is that they don't purge the voting rolls every year when a quarter of the students leave town, so it contains a lot of "dead weight" from no longer active voters.

Jb said...

Good point.