The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Youth voters-Presidential choice falling into the hands of future leaders

By Katie Hudson-Martinez/feature editor

Two voter demographics that have been inconsequential in recent presidential primary elections are young voters age 18-29 and Texans. But this year, things are very different. These two demographics could make or break the nomination for either of the Democratic candidates, and the presidential hopefuls have taken heed.

“It’s very exciting to see how important Texas has become in this election,” Tony Giardino, assistant professor of political science on South Campus, said.

In the past, most primary elections have produced a clear front runner by Super Tuesday, making the belated Texas vote fairly unimportant to the candidates. Democratic candidates in particular have spent little or no time campaigning in Texas, a staunchly Republican state.

But with the Democratic delegates split pretty much down the middle, Texas votes are now highly coveted. Political ads for both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are flooding Texas airwaves. The two have made numerous campaign stops across the state, hosted rallies and participated in a televised debate from the University of Texas at Austin.

Texas has the largest remaining chunk of delegates, a whopping 228. Of those, 126 will be assigned to vote for a specific candidate based on election winners from the 31 different senatorial districts in Texas.

Sixty-seven delegates will be chosen in the caucuses that are held in each district when the polls close at 7 p.m. on Election Day March 4. 

The other 35 will be the highly controversial super delegates, high-ranking government officials, who are not bound by any election results and may back whichever candidate they choose. The super delegates that have pledged thus far have heavily benefitted Clinton while Obama has received the majority of the popular vote.

The Republican primary process, although similar to that of the Democrats, has two stark differences. The Republican candidate with the majority of the votes will take all the Texas delegates, and all the delegates are required to represent the majority vote.

As confusing as it may be to some, it is not expected to affect voter participation. Supporters have turned out in large numbers (17,000 people flocked to Reunion Arena last week for an Obama rally) and Texas political leaders are predicting a record turnout in the 2008 primaries. If the first day of early voting is any indication, they are right.

When early voting started last Tuesday, 10,000 people in Tarrant County alone cast their ballots, with 70 percent of those going to Democratic candidates. This is in stark contrast to the 2000 and 2004 elections when 800-900 people cast a ballot on the first day of early voting.

The age demographic that has historically been the least likely to vote is young Americans. Increasing along with education and income, the older a person is, the more likely he or she is to vote.

This year has seen an explosive increase in voters under 30, three to four times the turnout in the 2000 primaries in some states.

This voting trend has been most beneficial to Obama, who has won more than 50 percent of the young vote in almost every primary this year.

“I think Hillary’s main campaign mistake was in the beginning touting the argument of experience,” Giardino said. “To most people, that just represents status quo—people, especially young people, are hungry for change.”

For young Americans, a Bush or a Clinton has been president as long as they can remember, and according to recent polls, many are increasingly dissatisfied with the way the country is being run.

“Unless Chelsea ends up running for president, I don’t think we are going to see another President Clinton in the White House,” he said. “In presidential elections, it’s all about momentum, and Obama has that going for him.”

All of the campaigns have hired youth vote organizers. Obama hired Hans Reimer, former organizer of Rock the Vote to organize his attempts at reaching out to young people. Obama’s campaign strategy of focusing on college-educated young people has been largely successful, and the increased number of young voters for Obama is larger than the margin of victory in most of the primaries.

The candidates have MySpace and Facebook accounts and have spoken at colleges and even high schools in an attempt to mobilize the youth vote in their favor.

Chelsea Clinton has aggressively campaigned for her mom, speaking at college campuses across the nation. The former first-daughter has been on the campaign trail for months and recently visited UNT, UTA and UTD talking about policies and answering questions from students.

Giardino said young people in his classes are most concerned about the war and the economy, and although his classes on South Campus are generally split down the middle, he sees the youth becoming increasingly aware of and active in politics.

“Many young people had become disenfranchised from the political process because in the past it seemed to them that all the issues were ‘old people issues’ like Social Security and medicare,” he said. “What they need to realize is that they have more at stake than anyone because they are still going to be paying for these things 40 years from now.”

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