Friday, November 05, 2010

Is Young Voter still an oxymoron?

Tempest in a teapot it may be, but there is yet another round of angsting over all our young people voting.  Did they vote? Didn't they?

In one version of it from this cycle, the focus is again the handful (or less) of Oakland voting districts that are predominantly students.   The dorms provide a pretty consistent base for measurement.  I myself have occasionally quipped on the stats from Oakland's Ward 4 District 8 which is literally made up of Pitt's Litchfield Towers.  So virtually 4,000 residents and they are almost all 'young' as voters go.  The population is pretty consistent year in and year out, as are the demographics.   So the turnout in that one district is a perpetual natural experiment in youth politics.  Well, that isn't really true.  It may work for comparing general elections, but for spring primaries, the timing is such that the primary most often happens after Pitt has finished its spring term and most folks evacuate pretty quickly once their last final is completed.  So you do have to take the primary turnout stats with a grain of salt. 

With all those caveats.. here is a hodgepodge of turnout stats from that one district going back a decade or so.  These are the counts of votes or ballots cast in a variety of races.  From the peak turnout in the 2008 general election when over 2,100 votes were cast.  The lowest count was in the Republican primary for mayor of the City of Pittsburgh in the spring of 2001.  A total of 1 ("one") vote was cast in that particular election. Granted it was the party primary, but still.  The Democratic primary that year had a total of 15 votes cast.  So use 16 if you want, but still a pretty small number. 

So interpret that as you will.  Looks like 2010 was less than the anomalous 2008, but better than a more compareable 2006 and a lot better than some older comparable non-presidential general elections. 

And the winner of the 2001 Republican primary?  With one vote Mark Rauterkus was victorious.  I was thinking that the city-wide turnout in the Republican primary that cycle was so low that if you had gotten a decent turnout from just from the dorms, you could have won the whole election.  There would have been a headline on youth voter impact.  Maybe a student could run?  next time?   Where is Josh Pollock these days?


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