The historic 2008 election season has concluded, and many UR students spent the final days reminiscing on what they did this year to get the youth voice heard.

‘We focused heavily on the debates this election season in an attempt to get more students engaged prior to Election Day,” Publicity Director of the Political Science Undergraduate Council and sophomore Katie Bartolotta said. ‘By sponsoring public viewings, we’ve had the opportunity to facilitate student discussions about the debates and other broad issues stemming from the election.”

The young vote played a significant role this election season and early voting numbers were at all-time highs in some states.

In past elections, young people have failed to meet expectations of turnout in past elections.

‘Historically, turnout of young people has been low,” Professor of Political Science Richard Niemi said. ‘In the past couple of elections, however, turnout of young people has risen faster than that of older people.”

Also, the involvement of young voters has been arguably the most enthusiastic in decades.

‘This year, students were quite heavily involved in the primary contests, especially on the Democratic side,” Niemi said. ‘Youth support for Obama clearly helped him. It was not simply the numbers involved, but the enthusiasm of his supporters that was impressive. If you go back to the time of the Vietnam War, one found that young people’s behavior had some real influence on election arguments and outcomes.”

Sophomore Rachel Knight has also taken notice to the heightened involvement of young people during this election season.

‘It seems there is a new event happening every day on campus that is trying to draw people into the election,” Knight said.

Excitement has trickled down from the presidential election to more local elections, most notably the race for the 29th Congressional District between Eric Massa and Randy Kuhl, one of the nation’s hottest races for Congress.

‘The College Republicans executive board went to a local event to help pass out information on Congressman Randy Kuhl,” a member of College Republicans and junior Charles DeCamilla, said. ‘Other College Republicans spent time going door to door, campaigning for [Congressman] Chris Lee.”

DeCamilla also noted that he saw an increase in enrollment for the College Republicans during this election season, a trend that was widespread among politically oriented groups on campus.

‘These new members are a mix of incoming freshmen and upperclassmen,” he said.

This election saw many traditionally Republican states, such as Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana, have a strong democratic showing a goal John Kerry was unable to achieve in 2004.

Exit polls showed that over 65 percent of the 18 to 29-year-old demographic voted for the Obama/Biden ticket, hinting that the youth might have affected this election.

‘I think that this election in particular is rousing the interest of young people because not only are we excited by the fact that a lot of us are voting in a major election for the first time, but because it feels as though it is a pivotal point in the country’s history,” Bartolotta said.

The true impact of the youth vote in this election may not be felt until the next election cycle, when the lasting effects will be tested. There will be little debate, however, that an active young demographic is a good thing for politics. Feedback has been universally positive, according to leaders of university groups.

‘I think it’s a great thing for America,” Knight said. ‘An educated country, especially young people, means that the best candidate will be elected and that our country will be in the best situation. Hopefully this is the start of a new trend for young people.”

Smith is a member of the class of 2011.

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