At the more than 2,100 polling places across Massachusetts today, about 70 percent of the state’s active voters are expected to cast their ballots, Secretary of State William F. Galvin said at a press conference yesterday.
He predicted healthy turnout on a day when voters will decide a governor’s race that has remained too close to call as well as three state-wide ballot initiatives.
“A close and exciting campaign for governor has generated interest in this election and will drive the turnout,” he said in a statement.
At Harvard, the Institute of Politics (IOP) has mobilized its regular effort to get students to the polls and has ironed out glitches that prevented some students from voting in the 2000 election.
But leaders of the IOP and the Harvard College Democrats say that despite their efforts apathy and forgetfulness will keep many students away from the polls.
IOP Director Daniel R. Glickman said the Institute and the College Dems had registered between 400 and 500 students to vote this year and that they had mailed around 200 absentee ballots to help students voting for their home state elections.
“This is a very important election because of the closeness of Congress and the importance of the governor’s race,” he said.
But College Dems President Sonia H. Kastner ’03 said voting is difficult for college students in general for a variety of reasons.
“My feeling is that students—and Harvard students—do like to vote and participate in politics just as much as other voting bodies,” she said. “The reason students don’t vote is logistics.”
“Voting is a lot less convenient and students are also reminded to vote a lot less,” she added. “By being a student, you’re cut off from the political process.”
In 2000, a presidential election year, even many students who had registered to vote with the IOP ran into logistical problems that kept them from casting ballots. Several dozen students arrived at polling stations on Election Day only to find that they could not vote.
But this year, the IOP changed the way it registered students and Glickman said that should not be an issue.
“We did it electronically that year,” he said. “This year, we didn’t do it electronically, we did it manually, and I haven’t heard of any problems so far this year.”
For the many students who vote in their home districts, deadlines for absentee ballots can mean their chance to participate in Election Day has already passed. Some said they simply forgot to request a ballot until it was too late.
“Although there are a lot of issues that I care about and I’ve been hearing about voting, I just never got to,” said Mariam F. Eskander ’05. “I know it’s a stupid reason, but I just never got around to it.”
Students voting in today’s American election are not alone in facing an inconvenient voting process. Deniz Kural ’06 missed voting in Sunday’s national elections in his native Turkey.
“I should have gone to the embassy,” he said, “but there was too much to do. I would have liked to vote if I could have done it. I’m unhappy about the results.”
Students who are planning to vote in this year’s midterm elections said campus groups had made it easier to get registered and actually vote.
“I wasn’t registered before I came to school,” said Jordan B. Woods ’06. “But I registered on campus and [the IOP] made everything easy. I got an absentee ballot in the mail and it was just like that.”
Several said registration tables set up at the beginning of the school year were what made it so easy to support their parties and their candidates.
“It was as easy to vote as it was not to,” said Bridget N. Queenan ’06, “and we’ve got to vote to get Democrats in office.”