By Abbie Lennox
Ingham County Chronicle
LANSING — First-time voters gained perspective on the presidential election at a legislative debate by political strategists in Lansing on Sept. 19.
The 2012 Michigan Chamber Foundation Legislative Reception & Annual Dinner showcased a bipartisan discussion about the perspectives on what the election will mean for America. The debate attracted many first-time voters.
Robert Gibbs, senior campaign adviser for President Barack Obama, and his onstage partner Karl Rove, the GOP strategist and former adviser for President George W. Bush, debated various issues, including the role of first-time voters in the 2012 election.
“I think we are likely to see the millennials, 18-29 year olds, as a smaller share of the electorate this time around,” said Rove. “At this time in September 2008, 78 percent of millennials said they were certain to vote. The latest number for this election is 58 percent that say they are certain to vote. It’s a sign in the decline in the enthusiasm amongst millennials.”
Gibbs disagreed. “I still think they will play a fundamentally large role in this election,” Gibbs said. “I think that as we get closer to this election, I think a lot more people are going to get energized. I don’t know that young people will match what they did four years ago, but I think they will be tremendously energized by the time we get to Election Day.”
Graham Malott, a recent graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in urban and regional planning, agreed with Gibbs, saying that first-time voters should have a great impact on the 2012 election.
“I stress this to everyone: If you want the right to complain about your government, you had better be a part of the process that chooses who runs it,” Malott said. “I think first-time voters definitely played a bigger role in the last election, but it will still be equally as important for them to vote in this election as well. It’s important for the voice of our generation to be represented in any election. The more people who vote the better!”
Michigan State University communications junior Kelsey Krawiecki agreed with Rove, saying that many first-time voters will choose not to participate.
“I believe first-time voters have the potential to have a large impact on this election, but I also feel it will take many young voters more of an incentive to actually go out and vote,” said Krawiecki. “I think many young voters believe their vote will not make a difference, so why bother going through the process.”
Further discussion led to concerns about job creation and business growth in Michigan, a vital issue for recent college graduates looking for a job post-graduation.
“One-half of recent college graduates won’t find work and will have to temporarily move back in with their parents,” said Rove. “This is not good enough for this great country of ours.”
Krawiecki agreed, saying that high unemployment in Michigan is one of the largest issues first-time voters will consider on Election Day.
“The high unemployment rate for recent college graduates is really disappointing, like Rove said,” Krawiecki said. “I think that it is one of the issues that many young people can agree needs to be drastically improved.”
By attending the debate, Malott said he realized that social issues that are important to him such as abortion, gay marriage and national healthcare laws, were also the most prominent issues to many of his peers.
“These are issues that are extremely important to me personally, as well as to many of my peers, which is reassuring,” said Malott.
Krawiecki agreed, saying that the main reason she defines herself as a liberal is because of her feelings about gay marriage and abortion laws.
Both Malott and Krawiecki said that these issues are the most significant to first-time and young voters, and that many of their peers who plan to vote in the 2012 election will base their decision around these issues.
“The event was pretty civil in nature, but overall I know where each party stands on their social and economic issues, and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon,” said Malott. “I know who I’m voting for, and at this point nothing is going to change my mind.”
However, Krawiecki said that the event had a huge impact on which candidate she will vote for in November.
“To be completely honest, I was uninformed on all issues regarding the presidential election before this event,” said Krawiecki. “Attending this event really opened up my eyes to the issues around us and why it is so important to have a voice in the election of our future president.”