Election 2016: Solutions to the voter turnout problem

The map above provides state-specific information on registration and absentee voting procedure. Hover over your state to learn how to vote in local, state and presidential general elections.

The clock never relents in its ticking as election day stands just over a month away.

Thirty-five days, to be exact, are what lie sandwiched between now and election day.

Last week, three panelists spoke at “The Most Important Election of Our Times,” an event held in the Commons Multipurpose Room that offered insight on the electorate breakdown, voter turnout and the importance of voting. One of the speakers, Josh Clinton, a political science professor at Vanderbilt and NBC Senior Elections Analyst, is an expert on demographics. This election year, his research centers around dissecting the electorate, including age demographics. He says, historically, regardless of generation, younger voters are always outshadowed by their older counterparts. Younger voters don’t vote as much as older voters, with margins as high as 40 percent, at times. For instance, only 40 percent of the 18 to 29  year-old population voted in the 2012 presidential election, while older voters had turnout rates closer to 70-80 percent.

To combat low turnout election season, tremendous focus on millennial voter turnout took hold nationwide over the past weeks. Google offers instant answers to vote-related search questions. Snapchat advertisements popped up with familiar celebrity faces like Jimmy Fallon promoting voter registration and turnout. Facebook held its own online voting drive, with the share button acting as the social media equivalent of an “I Voted” sticker.

Bit by bit, though, initiatives and conversations on campus have also made great progress in bridging the gap between voter intent and actual, realized votes.

The two-week Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Drive that bordered Rand Wall ended last Tuesday. One hundred and twenty students registered to vote, and 300 applied for absentee ballots.

“I’ve been blown away by the response, and I’m thrilled about the impact that we’ve been able to make here,” said Lizzy Katz, President of the Vanderbilt Multi-partisan Student Coalition and co-organizer of the drive.

Brittanie Giroux, a junior from Illinois, was grateful for the drive’s help.

“I heard about it on Facebook. I knew that I was registered, but I just wanted to check,” Giroux said. “For my state, they sent me the link of the absentee ballot and I found that really helpful. In general, I think if somebody is helping you through the process, you’ll be more likely to fill out the ballot.”

Time still stands on the side of potential, soon-to-be voters. Voter registration is still active in all fifty states, although not for long, and the period for absentee voting is in full swing.

But there is an alternative for those who steer away from the absentee vote Vanderbilt students can register to vote in the state of Tennessee. By using either an on-campus or off-campus Nashville address, students can register to vote either in person or by mail. The deadline of Tennessee voter registration is approaching soon, in eight days, on Oct. 11.

The two closest Davidson County polling places to campus include Centennial Park Performing Arts Studio off of West End and Eaken School at 2500 Fairfax Avenue on the Blakemore end of campus.

Unlike absentee voting, this option gives a sense of the civic pride and patriotism of participating in the actual event of Election Day.

Senior and Texas native, Amy Nguyen, registered to vote in Tennessee at Pilgrimage Music Festival a few weeks ago.

“Absentee voting just seemed like too much trouble,” Nguyen said. It seemed easier and more efficient to register in Tennessee. And it only took five minutes. It’s both convenient and also kind of cool since it’s my first time voting, I get the experience with everyone who come out to vote, too.”

However, voter registration and absentee voting may be only one trouble for student voters this election season. With such high-strung emotion and incredibly high stakes, the choice of candidate may be the greater struggle. In the next part of this series, we’ll explore the issues and hallmarks of the 2016 election that stir, poke, rile and rouse students in their political decision-making.

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