KSU precincts net lower voter turnout than county average

Nicole Stempak

20 percent fewer voters reported

Voter turnout was significantly lower at student-populated precincts compared to the countywide average, according to the unofficial results from the Portage County Board of Elections.

The two precincts for on-campus residents, Kent 4A and 5C, reported voter turnouts of about 45 and 49 percents. In comparison, the total county turnout was about 70 percent.

Norm Sandvoss, board of elections chair and member, said he was discouraged when he heard about the turnout figures.

“We certainly tried to be accommodating to the students,”

he said. “We wanted them to vote. We even had a polling place on campus at the Student Wellness (and Recreation) Center.”

Greg Jarvie, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, was surprised with the low figures.

“To me, it seemed to be very busy when I went, but maybe I went at a peak time,” he said. “Let’s remember not everyone voted on campus.”

A number of students voted absentee or voted in their hometowns, Jarvie added.

Barb Hipsman, voter service chair and vice president of the League of Women Voters, thinks a miscommunication may be responsible for student voter turnout. She said students received mixed messages about what forms of identification were needed to vote.

“At first, the message was that there was a university-provided list of dorm residents and that would be one of the IDs,” said Hipsman, who is also an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“The dorm listings were not used, but they ended up taking only Ohio driver’s licenses.

“The final salvation for students was really the Center for Student Involvement, Pete Goldsmith, the president’s office and the Democratic Party. They all stepped forward to work with the Bursar’s Office to print out letters to prove their residence in Kent.”

Freshman psychology major Rachael French said she didn’t experience any problems when she voted at the rec but she said she saw others who did.

“Most of the students were from out of town or couldn’t find the right ID,” she said, adding many of those students ended up voting provisionally.

Despite the political hype about the youth vote, this year’s results are lower than those of the last general election. In 2004, the precincts were combined into three voting places for Wards 4 and 5. Ward four reported a 49.2 percent and Ward 5 reported a 57.6 percent overall voter turnout.

In order to reach out to students and reduce long lines, three precincts were added to Kent’s 4th and 5th Wards this year. All precincts in Ward 4 reported a 44 percent turnout and Ward 5 reported a 53.6 percent voter turnout in the Nov. 4 election.

Still, Hipsman said she was glad to see “democracy in action.”

“From the League of Women Voters’ point of view, we’re just happy first-time student voters registered,” Hipsman said. “That’s 1,700 voters we didn’t have last time.”

Contact student politics reporter Nicole Stempak at [email protected].