Students take position on choice to vote

Kelly Byer

And many will cast their votes for president after independent research, with disregard to popular media and party

Photo illustration by Tracy Tucholski | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

To vote or not to vote, that is the question Kent State students must face. Who they decide to vote for depends on a variety of factors. But first, they must make the decision to decide in 2008.

Vernon Sykes, assistant professor of the Political Science Department and director of the Columbus Program in Intergovernmental Issues, said historically, young people haven’t participated in elections as much as the older population.

“To the extent that they don’t, they’re underrepresented,” Sykes said.

In the 2004 presidential election, voters age 18 to 29 had a 49 percent turnout, and voters age 30 or older had a 68 percent turnout, according to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement.

Patrick Burke, president of the College Democrats, said he thinks students’ decision to vote depends partly on the issues addressed by candidates. Whether the issue impacts or interests students could affect their decision.

Burke said he thinks students want to vote for someone they could have a conversation with, “someone who will actually see the world as they see it.”

Freshman nursing major Kristina Todorovic said she never votes because it’s not something she’s concerned with.

“I just never really got into politics,” Todorovic said.

Stephen Ontko, president of the College Republicans, said students are interested in accomplishing their own work, and their involvement in politics — which he compared to volunteering — depends on the election.

“Whether it be the College Republicans or College Democrats, students are largely apathetic on campus,” Ontko said.

Sykes said the atmosphere on campus is “still somewhat of a utopia.”

“I think students are preoccupied with classes and recreation and peer issues and still trying to figure out how to be an adult,” Sykes said, “They’re not taking on a lot of the responsible roles as adult citizens.”

Samantha Broaddus, senior English and Pan-African studies major, said she has voted almost every time she could in both presidential and general elections. She said she feels well-informed on issues and candidates by doing her own research and isn’t influenced by political media coverage.

“I get more out of it,” Broaddus said of learning about topics she’s interested in online rather than just popular topics covered on TV.

Sykes said media coverage affects students, but they usually aren’t engaged in the outside community, so its media doesn’t always engage them.

“It’s difficult for news accounts to interest the average student,” Sykes said.

Ontko recommends students look at newspaper articles and columns and cable news to gain knowledge of candidates and issues.

Junior Spanish major Erin Ferut said she knows general information but doesn’t always feel well-informed. She said she researches issues and anything she doesn’t understand online, usually visiting, candidates’ Web sites and links given to her by a teacher.

There is a multitude of incoming information from the media and candidates themselves that young voters can sort through when making their decision, but political advertisements and endorsements hold no importance for many Kent State students.

Broaddus said she feels candidate advertisements and endorsements are irrelevant and, this year in particular, she said candidates are too busy dealing with competition rather than promoting positive aspects of their campaign.

Ontko said these conflicts affect students but may not be a major issue.

“I think young voters should realize, and all voters should realize,” Ontko said, “that even though it’s not ideal to have so much campaign fighting, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing that a candidate would feel so strongly about an issue that they’d rub off poorly on another candidate who may differ on some capacity.”

Candidates should be presentable, but looks don’t sway Broaddus’ vote. She said she’s independent and votes based on candidates’ values, disregarding their party.

Sykes said students should take the time to learn about candidates and issues to better understand them when voting.

“From an academic perspective, they should do their homework and investigate,” Sykes said, “and do research to verify and understand the candidates’ position on issues and the issues themselves.”

Louis Enlow, director of the Portage County Board of Elections, also made an academic comparison.

“If you study for your exams and are well-prepared; you’re going to do well,” Enlow said. “If you study your candidates, you’re going to know which candidate sits closely with your way of thinking.”

For students deciding whether or not to vote, Sykes recommended taking into account the importance of government.

“Government regulates our day-to-day lives, and the quality of the government in our representative democracy is dependent upon the quality of the level of participation,” Sykes said, “Each citizen has authority, the right, and a responsibility to advocate their interest and express their ideas and ideals, and no one can substitute for you.”

Contact features correspondent Kelly Byer at [email protected].