Students, locals predict issues will attract young voters

The Vote-Bot, played by Marites Velasquez, has a dance-off with Flash Gordon, played by Brook Stableford, as they both work to register voters on the University of Colorado Boulder Campus on Oct. 8. The Vote-Bot was representing CoPIRG New Voters Project and Flash Gordon was dancing for New Era Colorado. (PAUL AIKEN)

The student chapter of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group — or CoPIRG — has been helping CU students register and update their voter registration for months in an attempt to remove the barriers that often keep students from the polls.

Since voter registration deadlines have passed, the group has shifted their focus to encouraging students to vote.

CoPIRG will host a “Get out the Vote” event at the University Memorial Center’s Dalton Trumbo Fountain on Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to increase enthusiasm as Election Day nears.

Sara Villata, one of the event coordinators, said the bipartisan event will raise awareness by asking students to fill poster boards with the reasons they think it is important to vote this year. The posters will eventually become part of a collage.

Steve Fenberg, executive director of New Era Colorado, a youthful civic engagement group, said young voters will continue to build excitement as the election gets closer and they start paying more attention to the issues.

“They (young voters) pay attention to election later than most other people,” Fenberg said. “It’s usually around the debates and other major milestones that young people really start honing in on what’s going on.”

Fenberg predicts that the youth turnout in November will be similar to the 2008 election, which drove a record number of students and young adults to the polls.

In 2008, students were excited about Obama, Fenberg said, and while enthusiasm about the incumbent isn’t as high this year, the issues of gay marriage, reproductive rights and student loan reform have kept them interested, he said.

“It’s easier to get more excited about a new candidate than someone running for re-election,” Fenberg said. “That’s just the nature of it.

Tyler Quick, CU senior and former president of the College Democrats, said young people are feeling “jaded,” and rightfully so.

“They feel like they were promised a lot of things by the Democratic Party and they kind of expected this wide social transformation and it didn’t happen,” Quick said.

Despite the disappointments of the administration, Quick and Fenberg agreed that the majority of young voters will support President Obama.

“No one is 100 percent approving of everything Obama has done in the last four years, but if you look at the polling and issues, young people support the issues that the president supports,” Fenberg said. “That’s what the polls say — that they will vote for the President more than for Gov. (Mitt) Romney.”

Aslinn Scott, CU junior and vice president of the College Republicans, said she is optimistic about the youth turnout for Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, who have already made more strides with students than John McCain, last year’s Republican nominee.

“After Obama’s disappointments, there are a lot of people who are becoming more open minded about Romney,” Scott said. “And Ryan is helping a lot as one of the youngest congressmen and showing that he can relate to young professionals.”

Scott is helping organize a “Securing the American Dream” rally targeted to young voters at the Denver capitol Saturday at 1:30 p.m. that will feature under-30 speakers.

Quick and Scott agreed that while they expect a good turnout from young voters this year, they said it likely will not match or exceed the rare showing in 2008.

— Follow Whitney Bryen on Twitter:@SoonerReporter

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