Will this off-year election ignite campus?

Print More

By Nathan Kujacznski
Entirely East Lansing

While cries of “trick or treat” filled the air, the citizens of East Lansing face a far more serious choice on Election Day.

Headlined by the gubernatorial race of Mark Schauer against incumbent Rick Snyder, East Lansing and the greater Ingham County area is one of the larger voter blocs outside of the Detroit area. In the center of that area is Michigan State University.

This year, MSU has a full four polling locations on campus. Brody Hall, the Michigan State University Union, and both the IM Sports East and West buildings will all be available to take student votes from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

However, polling availability doesn’t always lead to higher turnout, especially in non-presidential elections. A look back at the elections in 2010 and 2012 confirms this. In 2010, Ingham County accounted for 88,069 votes nearly evenly split between Republican Rick Snyder and his Democrat opponent, Virgil Bernero. Despite Bernero being mayor of Lansing at the time, Snyder edged out a majority in Ingham County.

The 2012 election was a different picture completely. Ingham County accounted for 127,910 votes, nearly 45 percent more than the previous election. Barack Obama took 80,847 of those votes, easily besting Republican nominee Mitt Romney. The difference was 40,000, coincidentally a number commonly used to estimate the student population of Michigan State University.

Of course it would be foolish to assume that zero students voted in 2010, or that all of them did for Obama, but the numbers do indicate that presidential poltics bring out the student vote. Across the state, the presidential election brought 1.5 million additional voters to cast the polls, compared to the off-year election.

Outside of the media spotlight of a White House race, students are much less enthusiastic and generally, less informed. Gabe Cruz, a sophomore at Michigan State, expressed his apathy about the election.

“I’m not really into politics,” Cruz said. “I don’t think it really makes much of a difference when you vote.”

While Cruz’ feelings were echoed by numerous students, others were actively campaigning to get their peers to vote. Traditionally a liberal bloc, college students have an enormous potential to swing elections, but only if a candidate can tap into their interests and enthusiasm. We’ll soon see whether Schauer or Snyder manages to do that.

Comments are closed.