Although students rarely hesitate to shoot their mouths off about political issues, far fewer students will use their vote than their voice in today's election. For while the vast diversity of University students -- ranging from Wharton conservatives to the radical Progressive Student Alliance -- disagree vehemently on many political topics, they rarely actually make it to the polls. "Voting is pretty low on this campus," said Michael Berman, the president of College Democrats. "The student body as a whole should evaluate their voting habits." According to estimates based on Philadelphia Voter Registration Tables for the 27th Ward, 1813 University undergraduate and graduate students are registered to vote in today's Philadelphia elections. No figures were available on the number of students choosing to vote by absentee ballot. 27th Democratic Ward Leader Kevin Vaughan said students' political interest has declined over the last 20 years partly due to Philadelphia politicians' failure to bring up issues relevant to students. "People in local politics need to give [students'] something to be excited about," Vaughan said. "This is not happening . . . It's the fault of politicians, not just students. The apathy works both ways." Vaughan also said apathy has set in among students because society is segmenting towards many specialized interests. "In terms of interests and activities, [students] have gotten further from looking at politics as something important," Vaughan said. Although Engineering junior Thomas Yannone said he plans to vote tomorrow, he offered the truism: "When it comes time to vote, fewer students vote than voice their opinions." Many students neglect to vote because they are from out-of-state and do not want to go through the hassle of voting by absentee ballot. "Most students who are already registered [in another state] aren't going to change [their registration] to vote here," Gonzalez said. Denise Wolf, president of the PPU, also said many students neglect local politics and "do not bother to transfer their registration." Wolf qualified her statement, saying that although University students appear to be politically apathetic, many do care about the candidates and the issues, but these students are not as visible on campus. "Just because we don't have a protest every day, it doesn't mean we're apathetic," Wolf said. "We're just a little choosier about what we want to be vocal about." College freshman Alexander Rogin said that he is registered to vote in his home state of California, but he did not vote by absentee ballot, adding that, "I didn't get around to it." Rogin said that he has taken some interest in local races -- through a political science class and by watching television commercials -- but said that he still "probably would not get around" to voting in Pennsylvania even if he were registered here. College freshman Jonathon Kohl said he is registered to vote in Long Island but did not, and that he is not interested in local elections. "I've seen a little bit on TV, but it really doesn't matter that much to me," Kohl said. Going against the norm, College of General Studies senior Jennifer Colleran said she plans to vote today, partly because of her four-year association with the University. "The majority of Penn students are apathetic, but the longer they live in Philly, the more they have invested in the city," Colleran said. Although many students exercise apathy instead of their right to vote, the importance of the neck-and-neck senate race between Democrat Harris Wofford and Republican Richard Thornburgh has excited a greater number of students than usual. "There is definitely interest in the senate race," Berman said. "Wofford has been a big advocate of education, and he favors tax breaks to middle class, which are very relevant issues to students." Students have reacted strongly to the national importance of the Wofford-Thornburgh race, said the political groups' leaders. "Many students seem more interested in what is going to be a close race," Gonzalez said. "By voting for Wofford, students are sending a message to Washington that has not been stressed enough," Berman said. "Whether or not he wins, that he has done as well as he has sends a big billboard to George Bush that says, 'Fuck you.' " Colleran said that because the race is so close, she feels as if "her vote really counts." Ward Leader Vaughan said that because the Wofford-Thornburgh election has generated national interest, more students have become involved. "When you can read in the Sunday New York Times about your candidate, it gets people interested," Vaughan said. "It is the beginning of a wave of student activism about the presidential election."Comments powered by Disqus
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