Voter Registration Declines at UMD
As early registration comes to a close, UMD is on track to have its lowest voter turnout in a presidential election since 2000.
According to the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG), registrations will total just above 1,800 students come Election Day. That’s just a little over half of the average registration from the last three presidential elections, based on precinct voting records from the Duluth City Clerk’s office.
Since 2000, UMD’s voter turnout has trended well below both state and national rates for young voters. Even in the the nation’s most vibrant recent election year, 2008, when 60 percent of eligible 18 to 24-year-olds voted in Minnesota, registration at UMD still never exceeded more than half of the school’s student population.
Even with that surge, only a little more than half of those registered showed up at the polls on Election Day.
MPIRG member, Dylan Harris, said that 2016 has been a difficult year for the organization’s “Get Out the Vote” campaign. They fell short of their goal of 2000 registrations before election day.
Though same-day registration will still be available to students come November 8, Harris said that many potential voters seem to be discouraged from voting altogether.
One voter, Josh Bolen, a graphic design major and former Bernie Sanders supporter, says that even if he does vote it won’t necessarily be because he wants to.
“I just don’t like either candidate,” Bolen said. “I hate it when people say ‘not voting for Hillary is a vote for Trump’ when I would just as soon vote for neither of them.”
Another undecided UMD voter, Luke West, a business major and Republican-leaning independent, also expressed his dissatisfaction with this year’s candidates.
“I couldn’t vote for Donald Trump now, but Clinton almost seems just as bad to me,” West said. “I know I probably should vote, but I can’t decide and I feel like our country is too stable for its survival to depend on my vote alone.”
Despite these concerns, Harris said he believes that it’s still better for dissatisfied students to vote, so that their voices don’t go unheard.
“If you don’t like the main candidates, voting third party helps too,” Harris said, “even if they won’t win, it’s a step closer to getting us more options for the presidency in future elections.”
Harris also pointed out that there are still down-ballot elections in which student votes could very well make the difference, such as the race between Democratic Congressman Rick Nolan and Republican challenger Stewart Mills, or the statewide referendum on how to determine salaries for legislative positions.