Young Voters Flocked to the Polls on Tuesday

Apr 8, 2016

Young voters participated in record numbers in Wisconsin elections this week. According to a research center at Tufts University, 33 percent of young people here voted. That's one of the highest rates in the country.

The enthusiasm contributed to long lines at some campus polling places. The crowds are on the minds of people preparing for this fall's elections.

Some college students were ready to vote first thing on Tuesday. Take Emily Gorz. The Public Relations major at Marquette University voted at the student union.

"I actually woke up early, anticipating a long line, so I was in line at 7:30 in the morning, and I didn't have to wait at all, which was really great," Gorz says.

Perhaps Gorz was prepared because she's a leader in student government. Her peers who went to the campus polling site later had a different experience.

"I got in line around 2:15, and I wasn't able to vote until 4:30-4:45," says Irene Rojo. She's a double major in Exercise Physiology and Spanish for Health Professionals. One of her physical therapy classes became a casualty of election day, after she spent a couple of hours in the voting line.

"I was right there in the front. I was like, 'I'm not going to leave now to go to my class,' and I emailed my professor and he was very understanding, because he knows it's sort of like a one-day thing," Rojo says.

This was Rojo's first time voting. She says it seemed like all the students who recently turned 18 decided to vote.

"Some people were impatient, some people were patient. Most of us -- I think the majority -- were just hungry," Rojo says.

Business major Sam Koziol saw the long line at the union, so he decided to go to the neighborhood where he grew up to vote. It's a short drive from campus. Koziol says there was only about a five-minute wait there.

"It's nice being close and being able to go home and vote there instead of having to re-register here," Koziol says.

Same-day registration contributed to long lines at some polling places. People who’ve moved to campus must register under their new address. And the timing of the student vote also was a factor, according to Neil Albrecht, the executive director of the City of Milwaukee Election Commission.

"They really converge on a voting site once classes are over. So you go from having a very manageable number of people at a voting site, to literally a deluge of voters," Albrecht says.

Albrecht is calling on university campuses and groups that encourage voting to make sure more students are prepared for the presidential election in November. Marquette spokesman Chris Jenkins says the university already takes steps.

"We have actually a voter education website as part of the marquette.edu. We communicated a lot of that information via an electronic newsletter to our students. And we printed up a bunch of posters that were in our residence halls and university-owned apartments," Jenkins says.

Yet Jenkins says in light of Tuesday's long lines, the campus likely will re-double its voter education efforts before the fall election. The main message to students will be: if you do some work in advance, your experience at the polls should be a lot smoother.