Editorial: NU voter turnout disappointing in light of efforts

After the 2000 election, many Northwestern students voiced complaints about the limited polling places, particularly on South Campus, where students were required to stand in line for as long as four hours at Evanston Public Library.

The good news after this election is that no one had to wait in line. The bad news is that only 335 NU students voted in Evanston, a fraction of the registered population. Because of the problems at Evanston Public Library, Parkes Hall was used as an election precinct and by all indications, the operation was significantly smoother than two years ago. Students could vote as soon as they showed up, and only a few students were unable to vote because of paperwork troubles. (Students who move cannot vote unless they file their address change by the registration deadline.)

The low turnout in Evanston among registered NU students is disappointing, but as an indicator of overall student turnout, it is hardly accurate, since students voting via absentee ballot in their hometowns are not counted.

We commend the Cook County Clerk’s office for its work to improve polling this year and to ensure everything ran smoothly. But continued student apathy cannot be overcome with convenience: Some registered voters who did not cast a ballot claimed they could not find time to do so. This argument is hard to swallow when waiting times were less than five minutes and polls were open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Additional efforts could have been made to increase student awareness of the reregistration requirement, such as use of the class council and dorm listservs for announcements, but their overall impact would have been minimal.

Ultimately, although educational efforts and registration drives can marginally improve turnout, there will never be a strong showing of NU students in Evanston elections until voting, and voting in Evanston, becomes a priority across the population.