By Kate Kerbrat
Entirely East Lansing staff writer
Cindy Atkinson worked her first election on Nov. 5 at IM Sports West, the new voting location for precinct 15. However, she had little opportunity to put her new training to use, as voter turnout on campus was extremely low. Only a reported 25 votes were cast in campus precincts.
“More students should vote, because it’s their opportunity to be involved” said Atkinson. “The members of the City Council help establish policies that impact their lives.”
City Clerk Marie Wicks was disappointed with the low student turnout.
“It’s really a bummer on campus,” said Wicks. “I don’t think there was any substantial voter drives on campus this time around, and I know two years ago there was. There really wasn’t a push for it this year.”
A part of the lower voter turnout on campus could be attributed to the relocation of voting stations. For the first time, voting was held at IM Sports West, IM Sports East and the MSU Union. While voters need privacy in an enclosed location, there was little signage at the Union or IM Sports West for voters to find where to vote.
“Wayfinding and signage could be a little better,” said Wicks. “We were limited because we can’t really be in the dorms anymore because they’re secured.”
While student turnout was expected to be low, election workers were surprised at just how few students turned up to vote. Cathy Scott, the managing elector at the Union, said she encouraged those who did come to send their friends to vote, too.
“Sometimes students think the election is a city event, and since they’re not from the city, it doesn’t concern them. If students are here for the next four years, what happens today will impact them for the entire time they stay in East Lansing,” said Scott. “They need to have a voice in the community.”
Scott said some students who wanted to vote had difficulty because they weren’t registered in East Lansing. Wicks said there were a limited number of students registered this year.
“If I looked at voter registration for a campus precinct—take precinct 15 for example—which I did actually look at the other day, I think it was around 1,500 registered voters. But they don’t live there anymore,” said Wicks. “I can tell you campus hasn’t registered 1,500 voters in one precinct.”
While Wicks said she wished more had been done on campus to get students to vote, she would need help to get that done. YouVote, a non-partisan initiative that encourages students to vote, usually works with her office, but its leadership position hasn’t been filled since its supervisor retired last year.
“Hopefully next year, since it’s going to be a big election, we’ll have that up and running again,” said Wicks.
East Lansing has had problems in the past getting out the vote. In 2011, the turnout for the city was only 12 percent.
“I think sometimes the low student turnout really pushes our numbers down,” said Wicks. “So you might have a decent portion of non-student folks come out to vote, but students don’t turn out, unfortunately, for City Council elections as we might like them to.”