Around this time in important election years, Locust Walk comes alive with pamphleteers. Leaflets are stuffed in mailboxes and under doors, booths are set up, and the cries of "register now" fill the air. This year, the action is in the hope that traditionally apathetic student voters in the city's 27th Ward will break with tradition and vote in the May 21 primary election. There is little more than a month left to register to vote in the primary for what is considered by many to be a critical election for Philadelphia, a city facing a dire financial crisis in addition to the host of problems facing many older cities. The deadline is April 22, one month before the May 21 election. And because the polls open the day after graduation, students who want to vote may need to do so by absentee ballot. But if student voting trends continue, turnout will be low despite the importance of this year's primaries. The University is spread out over eight divisions of the 27th ward. An example of the low turnout is clear in last year's gubernatorial primaries. The University division which includes High Rise North and the Locust Walk fraternities, 352 people registered, but only six people actually voted. That division, with a voting percentage of 1.7 percent, actually recorded one the highest turnouts of University divisions. Turnouts were even worse in the division including High Rise South, Van Pelt College House and Modern Languages College House. In the 1990 primaries, 322 people were registered to vote. No one from that division voted in the election. However, Democratic Ward leader Kevin Vaughan said the turnout problem is often one of timing. Since the primaries usually take place in May, students are generally not on campus to vote. The problem arises again this year, as the primaries take place on May 21, the day after graduation. However, Vaughan dismissed timing as a prohibitive problem, since students can obtain absentee ballots from the city. "You can vote by absentee ballot easily," Vaughan said. "You just have an application to fill out. They will send you the ballot and you mail it back to them. If you've registered you should definitely vote." Voter registration officials said college campuses traditionally have low turnouts, noting that Drexel and Temple universities have similar records. But they say a large portion of the problem is not getting registered voters to turn out, but to get people to register in the first place. Vaughan said he expects a higher turnout of students this year, however. "There is a lot of information and interest in mayoral election," Vaughan said. "If [people] want to work on the presidential campaigns, they get involved in the mayoral ones and do a lot more volunteering, to have it on their resume." Both the Republicans and the Democrats say they have registration drives planned. Ward Republican Leader Matthew Wolfe said the GOP will sponsor their annual drives on Locust Walk in conjunction with College Republicans. "We'll set up tables ourselves," Wolfe said. "We've had success with registration -- breaking even or surpassing the Democrats." Wolfe added that the ward committee may campaign more aggressively in this primary as a result of the Republican Party's endorsement of District Attorney Ron Castille. "The Republicans are contemplating a massive drop of brochures and a campaign for Castille," Wolfe said. "We're thinking of impersonal things like mailings under the door or stuffing mailboxes, things like that." Scott Danzinger, a member of the Penn Democrats, said his party is planning to help voters obtain absentee ballots. "This year we're doing an absentee ballot drive," said Danzinger, a College freshman. "All the people that we register will be getting an absentee ballot from us." Both Vaughan and Wolfe called this election "important" for students, saying that students should be concerned with who is running the city. "It's incredibly important for students. You live here nine months out of the year," Vaughan said. "It's an opportunity to vote on who will vote in City Council. Many issues that they vote on are important to students. Whether or not the taxes taken out of your paychecks are higher, whether or not SEPTA fees go up, whether or not money gets spent on the police. You should definitely vote."Comments powered by Disqus
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