Seniors vote for the first time

Liza Rodler

As some seniors head to the voting booths for the first time today, the rest of the student body will have to contend with watching the election unfold from the sidelines.

Most seniors who were 18 by today reported having registered to vote — 71 percent, according to the October Bark survey.

That rate falls below Marin’s overall voter registration rate of 84 percent, but is comparable to the statewide rate of 73 percent, according to California census data.

Ivan Shaw, a senior who said he will be casting his ballot today, registered to vote because he believes it is in younger citizens’ best interests to vote, as the president potentially has great influence on education spending and policies about college loans.

“We can actually make a difference in our college education by voting for who we believe in and what policies we believe in,” Shaw said. “Even in social issues like health care and gay marriage, it’s also very important for the coming generation to decide and try to make a difference in our community and decide what is best for our kids in the future.”

On the other side of the spectrum are seniors Wynn Taylor and Mariana Pinto, who are abstaining from voting.

Pinto said she doesn’t feel informed enough about the presidential elections to make a reasonable decision.

“I’m not voting because I haven’t followed the election at all, so I feel very uneducated about each candidate’s proposals. I don’t want to vote because I don’t feel like it’s an educated vote,” Pinto said.

Taylor, who didn’t realize he could register to vote as a 17-year-old with an Oct. 30 birthday, said he has mixed feelings about voting.

“I kind of wish I could have voted for the experience, but neither candidate is good enough for me to be serious about the election,” he said. “California is typically more liberal, and because of the electoral college, I feel like my vote doesn’t matter as much.”

Still, both Pinto and Taylor said they think voting is an important right.

“We as Americans should feel privileged that we all have that right,” Taylor said.

Taylor and Pinto are not alone in their decision not to vote. While census data showed the voter turn out rate for ages 18-24 increased from 47 percent in 2004 to 49 percent in 2008, recent polls predict the rate of voter turnout might fall once again in 2012.

Only 63 percent of adults under 30 are planning to vote this year, as opposed to 72 percent in 2008, according to data collected throughout 2012 by the Pew Research Center. Although the data may not fully represent young voters who are known to register later in the voting season, the 18-24 voting group still started the year with its lowest voter registration rate in the last 20 years.

Polls also suggest that younger voters nationally are becoming less engaged in the political process, as 18 percent of surveyed Americans aged 18-24 reported following the election very closely, compared to 35 percent in 2008.

Student survey data suggests that local teens care more about the election, as 38 percent of students surveyed said they consider the 2012 presidential election to be very important and 48 percent answered that the election is somewhat important.