As midterm elections approach, student voter turnout unclear


Lapeer freshman Caelin O'Bryan fills out voter registration information Sept. 10 at the Michigan Secretary of State mobile office on Central Michigan University's campus.

Nov. 6 brings the 2018 midterm elections, but there's no guarantee it will also bring students to the polls.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the trend in voter participation in presidential elections from the 18 to 29-year-old age group has fluctuated since 1980, but shows a general decline, falling from 48.2 percent in 1980 to 46.1 percent in 2016. This demographic consistently votes at the lowest rate of all age groups recognized by the USCB, while the 65 and older demographic has voted at the highest rate since 1996. 

Political science faculty member Jayne Cherie Strachan said Central Michigan University students vote at a different rate entirely: ten percent lower than the national average. 

"The national trend in youth political participation has been low since the 80’s," Strachan said. "We do see spikes in turnout when external campaigns motivate students to participate - when they’re nudged. But when those things aren’t there, they flatten."

Registered Student Organization Register, Educate, Vote, worked with the Michigan Secretary of State on Sept. 10 to be that motivating force for students on campus. When the SOS mobile office visited during Spring 2018, 85 people registered to vote. On Sept. 10, however, the Secretary of State's Mobile Office registered 316 individuals according to its Twitter page -- the second-highest turnout in the SOS mobile office's voter registration history. 

Mount Pleasant resident and co-chair of the Campus Vote Project Norma Bailey has helped REV bring the SOS mobile office to CMU's campus since 2015. She said the number of on-campus voter registrations have gone up in the past couple of semesters because there has been a cultural push for the importance of elections. 

 “There’s a lot to learn, but it’s really important that we engage in our democracy,” Bailey said. "This is the way we choose the officials that will make the decisions that support what we believe."

Lapeer freshman Caelin O'Bryan missed the opportunity to vote in Michigan's gubernatorial primary elections and took advantage of the SOS mobile office in order to qualify to vote in the midterms.

"I feel like it’s kind of a waste if you don’t (vote)," O'Bryan said. "Even if it doesn’t seem like (one vote) out of three hundred million counts for anything, there’s no reason not to, because it might."