Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Officials: Turnout at NU increases but still too low

Gray skies couldn’t dampen the spirits of more than 300 Northwestern students who voted at polling places in Patten Gym and Parkes Hall on Tuesday.

Unfortunately for some interested students who braved wind and rain to reach polling places, registration problems kept them from voting as they would have liked.

About 45 students who did not reregister after changing addresses were allowed only to vote in federal races, such as senator, but not for county positions or for governor, said Jeff Davis, election judge for Evanston Precinct 1-6, located in Parkes.

Medill junior Mike Blake said he was disappointed when officials at Parkes told him he could not vote in all of the races, because he had not registered his new address. Blake filled out paperwork to vote in the federal races, but the forms are temporary and he will have to reregister at a later date.

“It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound,” Blake said. “It’s not going to do anything in the long run.”

He said despite NU’s push for voter registration this fall, students were not told of the importance of re-registration.

“This was my first real time getting to exercise our God-given right to vote, and due to a lack of education, I didn’t get to do that,” Blake said.

Proper registration is crucial, said Tiffany Farriss, an election judge in Parkes.

“It’s so important that any time you move, even in the same precinct, you must reregister,” said Farriss, Weinberg ’00. “So many students move from year to year but don’t change their registration.”

Davis said most registration problems probably came from students who relied on dorm officials to turn in their paperwork instead of going directly to the Cook County Clerk’s office at Evanston Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.

But Farriss said the higher turnout this year might be due to on-campus efforts to encourage registration, such as giving resident assistants voter registration forms to distribute in dorms.

South Campus election judges estimated that about 276 of about 1600 active registered voters voted by the time polls closed at 7 p.m. Twenty percent of these people were Evanston residents.

On North Campus at Precinct 7-9, 59 of 943 registered students voted by 4 p.m., and judges said they expected between 75 and 100 total by the end of the night.

Election judges at both polling places said voters this year did not experience long lines that characterized the 2000 presidential election or the low turnout of the March primaries. Waiting times usually were less than five minutes Tuesday, Davis said.

One change that might have affected voter turnout on South Campus was the location of the polling place. It was only the third time that Parkes had been used as an election precinct.

For the 2000 presidential election South Campus students had to vote at the Evanston Public Library, where some stood in line for as long as four hours, Farriss said.

Another change NU made since March was the construction of a handicap-accessible ramp on Parkes. Some voters said they appreciated the change.

“It certainly made it easier for me to get in,” said Louis Kraft, an Evanston Spanish teacher who walks with a cane.

Many students who voted said they wished more of their peers would have come to the polls.

“It’s kind of a tragedy so many people don’t use their right to vote as they should,” said Aaron Szerlip, a McCormick freshman.

Davis said maybe not as many students voted as registered, because they were more interested in the politics of their home states.

“Northwestern is a national university,” said Davis, Medill ’63. “Even though there has been much talk about the (Illinois) gubernatorial race, I don’t think it was a glamorous thing for students from New York or Ohio.”

Students who wanted to know the results of national elections had the chance to socialize at a voting party in Scott Hall sponsored by Public Affairs Residential College.

Britt Gordon-McKeon, PARC’s external academic chair, said she hoped the party’s casual atmosphere and the presence of professors would spark conversation.

“I hope that having professors come will help make it not only a social event but also will promote discussion,” said Gordon-McKeon, a Medill junior.

Although some people have said college students are isolated from community and political events, PARC master Lee Huebner said he thinks that view is no longer true.

“I think students realize they don’t have to be (separate),” said Huebner, a Communication and Medill professor. “The sense of being disconnected is changing.”

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Officials: Turnout at NU increases but still too low