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The role of the youth vote and absentee ballots

Political science professor Michael Henderson and Ole Miss students discuss the youth vote, particularly voters 18-29 who are forced to vote absentee.

Today is Election Day.

In election years prior, the youth vote hasn’t always been much of a factor.

Michael Henderson, assistant professor of political science at The University of Mississippi, said the fact that many younger voters move around a lot is to blame.

“If you’re a younger American, you tend to be more mobile,” Henderson said. “Which means that if you’re from out of state and now in Oxford, you have to do one of a few things: You have decide to register to vote in Mississippi and find a new polling place, wherever that may be, in Oxford, so there are extra costs you have to face, or do you decide to vote absentee in your home state?”

Jon Slimack, a senior elementary education major from Missouri, chose to submit an absentee ballot for this year’s election.

“Voting is an American right and it shouldn’t be taken for granted; I feel I need to exercise my right as an American citizen,” Slimack said. “With Missouri being such a swing state, I would like to have my voice heard in my state, opposed to having it almost not matter in a Republican-heavy state such as Mississippi.”

Freshman business major Greg Poole from North Carolina will not be voting in this presidential election. Poole said he did not find the time to register for an absentee ballot, which he regrets.

“This election is extremely important to me and I feel that people do not believe it is when I tell them I am not voting,” Poole said. “I admit that I forgot about registering for an absentee ballot, but I am still anxious to see how the election pans out.”

Poole said wishes he had talked to older, experienced voters so that he could have done exactly what he needed to do to vote by absentee ballot. This year would have been Poole’s first chance to vote in a presidential election, as he turned 18 last year.

When politicians and pundits are talking about the youth vote, they are referring to voters in the 18-29 age bracket. According to civicyouth.org, this demographic consists of 46 million people who are eligible to vote in 2012.

Though the number of potential voters in the age bracket is significant, historically, the group hasn’t made much of an impact on the general elections.

“The youth vote is actually the least represented group when it comes to voting,” Henderson said.