The Mercury- Oct. 23, 2012- Presidential Election issue
While most of the country remains focused on the upcoming Presidential Election, student political organizations on campus are working to involve students with the often-forgotten elections of state and local government offices.
The Facebook pages of the Political Science Club, the North Texas Student Campaign and UTD College Democrats advertised multiple opportunities to intern or volunteer with local political candidates in the past few weeks. Internships and volunteer opportunities with Stefani Carter and Robert Miklos, Republican and Democratic candidates for the Texas House of Representative, respectively, were among the events listed by the organizations.
Local elections are often characterized by lower voter turnouts and knowledge of the candidates. An article posted by the Texas Tribune on Oct. 15 stated that 70-80 percent of voters would not vote for the offices at the bottom of the ballot if not for the straight ticket, which allows voters to select candidates by political party.
Robert Franklin, a UTD political science professor who teaches a course this semester called Campaigns and Elections, said the likely reason for this trend is that many voters underestimate the importance of local offices.
“What many don’t recognize is that the lower races down at the bottom of the ballot will probably have a great impact and greater effect on their lives than what happens in the national elections,” Franklin said. “Things like schools, crime and local taxes — those are decided at the state legislature level.”
Franklin said that votes in local elections often have a greater impact than votes cast in Presidential elections.
“One thing that happens is voter drop-off, where people only vote for the three, four or five things at the top and leave the rest blank,” Franklin said. “It’s a smaller group of people who decide who runs the state legislature and Congress.”
UTD straddles the line between two districts. The main campus and Waterview apartments are in District 102 and are represented by Republican Stefani Carter. The residence halls and University Village are in District 67 and are currently represented by Republican Jerry Madden.
One of the organizations working to connect students with local politics is the North Texas Student Campaign, or NTSC, which focuses specifically on equal access to higher education.
Andrew Previc, co-director of NTSC and political science senior, said that volunteering with a political campaign and being able to meet local candidates creates a unique connection that pushes voters to go to the polls.
“That personal interaction you have with a candidate can really create political loyalties and can really motivate people to go out (and vote),” Previc said. “I don’t think that ideological consistencies alone are enough for people our age.”
Representative Madden will not seek reelection in November. Jeff Leach, the Republican candidate for state representative in District 67, will run unopposed. Republican incumbent Stefani Carter and Democrat Rick Hancock will run for state representative for District 102.
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