Guest Editorial

President Jill Beck

Apathetic no more! An estimated 24 million Americans ages 18 to 29 turned out to vote in last week’s historic election, an increase of at least 2.2 million over 2004, according to The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. Fifty-four percent of this demographic went to the polls Nov. 4, 19 percent more than in 2004, and just one percent short of the record young voter turnout in 1972.
For the first time in 20 years, voters under the age of 30 made up a larger share of the electorate than those over the age of 65. And it was the youth vote, according to many experts, that was the deciding factor in the race for president.
As Lawrence’s year of Revitalizing Democracy draws to a close, one thing is clear. Our campus was part of a seismic shift in the way students, and young voters in general, view their roles in our participatory democracy. If it was true that young voters were either turned-off by or uninterested in the political process — as political experts have opined — that cannot be said of you, the students at Lawrence University.
On campus, voter registration efforts were more successful than ever before, with 398 students registering to vote here for the first time. Two hundred seventy-five students took advantage of vans providing transportation to the polls. A sunny, 65-degree day made walking to the polls more enjoyable than previous November elections.
Your involvement extended well beyond the voting booth. Lawrence University’s election Web site, MyElectionDecision.org, attracted more than 21,350 visitors who took the blind test about presidential candidates and the issues — a list of issues that, thanks to many motivated Lawrence students, was expanded last winter to include subjects of particular importance to younger voters.
In recent months, our campus became a hub of activity for political awareness. Convocations, debate parties, candidate visits and a congressional debate all added to the political discourse that took place in the classrooms and in the coffeehouse. Some of you knocked on doors, made phone calls and even worked at the campaign office of the candidate you endorsed.
Whether your candidate won or lost, you took advantage of the opportunity to join the ranks of educated, issue-oriented, engaged citizens, and your voice made a difference. We all share the responsibility for ensuring the future of a participatory democracy, not only by educating ourselves about the issues, but also by taking action.
I invite you to take one final and important action to conclude our theme year. Throughout the year our goal was to achieve 100 percent eligible-voter participation, and the only way to know how close we came to meeting that goal is to survey our students. In the next few days you’ll receive an e-mail from our research department asking whether or not you cast your ballot. Please take a moment to respond. We look forward to learning the results.
Congratulations and thanks to all of you — Lawrence students, faculty and staff — who participated in the many voter activities of this historic year.

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