Voting tails off on long ballot

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Staff Reports

Patric Vaelli decided five years ago that his presidential vote in November 2012 would go to Barack Obama. He worked on the campaign in Iowa then, and said he’s excited to once again cast his ballot for the president.

Voting is “a collective. It’s a synergistic effect,” the Michigan State University first-year zoology doctoral candidate said. “I know I’m going to cancel out my roommate, but it’s more a matter of paying attention to what’s going on.”

Although Vaelli is confident what the top of his ballot will look like, things get hazier as he reaches the judges and ballot proposals near the bottom. He said he plans to vote all the way down his ballot, but his only indication of how to vote so far is party alignment.

“I’m pretty straight ticket,” he said.

Many experts posit that 2012 voter turnout among college students will not compare to that seen in the 2008 presidential elections. In the majority-student precincts in 2008, East Lansing saw 62 percent turnout, compared to turnout in the high-60s in Michigan as a whole. The final day to register to vote in the Nov. 6 elections was Oct. 9.

“A presidential year always draws the most number of voters possible, so it’s going to be a much higher turnout than two years ago,” said Bill Ballenger, the editor and publisher of political newsletter Inside Michigan Politics.

In the 2010 gubernatorial elections, just more than a third – or about 9,800 people – of East Lansing’s registered voters turned up to vote, according to records from the East Lansing City Clerk’s office. Further down the ballot, the year’s two proposals garnered about 8,500 votes each, while local offices like county commissioner races collected even fewer.

The East Lansing clerk was unavailable for further comment on expected voter turnout next month.

Michigan voters as a whole will decide about 10,000 races, the longest ballot of any state this season, Ballenger said.

“People are going to be just exhausted and turned off, and they’re going to quit halfway down the ballot,” he said. “It does drop off by as much as a third, for things like judges. And this year, for the first time, they’re going to have school boards on the ballot.”

This potentially could lead to proportionally less votes on the six ballot proposals than was seen during 2010, he said.

“We’ve got so much other stuff on the ballot, … we’ll just have to see if that discourages people from voting on the ballot proposals more than it would in a gubernatorial, non-presidential year,” Ballenger said.

Although MSU premedical sophomore Adam Raich decided long ago that he will cast his ballot for Obama in November, he said he has yet to look into any of the six ballot proposals.

“I’m actually not familiar with them,” he said. “I’ll have to go look them up.”

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