With the 2012 Presidential election coming near, a considerable majority, 93% of surveyed students, stated that they were officially registered to vote in the election, whether by an organization on campus, through a government agency, or in another way. Since registering to vote is considered the biggest hurdle to actually voting, student turnout this cycle could set a record.
Political campaigns and organizations have come to the NC State campus to register people to vote, spread the word about the election, and promote certain candidates. According to the Pack Poll, since the start of the spring 2012 semester at NC State, 91% of the respondents say they have been asked to register to vote by somebody on campus. When students were asked who approached them, the plurality (41%) said they were asked to register by a Democratic-affiliated group or organization. Fewer (27%) said that they were asked to register by a non-partisan group, and even less (24%) reported being asked to register by a Republican-affiliated group.
When asked how they registered to vote, a plurality of students (31%) stated that someone from a political organization registered them on campus. This finding is surprising since federal law mandates citizens be offered to the chance to register when they apply for their driver’s license or social services. Another 19% took advantage of a law unique to North Carolina, that allows residents younger than 18 to “pre-register” to vote, so they are eligible to vote the first election occurring once they turn 18 years old.
Planning on Voting
The Pack Poll finds that a large majority of NC State students’ are planning to participate in the election. When students were asked if they were planning to vote, 6% said they already voted and 76% were confident that they would vote. Conversely, only 7% said they “probably” or “definitely” would not vote. While some respondents are almost surely over-stating their true likelihood of voting, an even larger percentage of the faculty (91%) stated that they had, or would, vote in the election.
Knowing the Rules
A majority of students and faculty say they know about the different aspects of the election process. For instance, 94% of students surveyed said they knew about an “early voting” option. Students’ knowledge of where they can vote is also a potential barrier to voting, but most State students (76%) said they knew where their specific, assigned voting precinct is located. By comparison, though, 94% of faculty said they knew this information. At the end of the Pack Poll, respondents were given a web link to find their polling place.
Automatic Voter Registration?
The United States is virtually alone in requiring its citizens to register themselves in advance of being eligible to actually vote. Students’ opinions are almost equally split about whether to continue the current voluntary registration (48% system or possibly move to an automatic registration system (45%). The faculty, however, strongly supports implementing an automatic voter registration system (67% vs. 24%, respectively).