Candidates weigh in on low student turnout

Alex Lyons does not plan to vote in tomorrow’s gubernatorial elections because he has better things to do.

“I voted when I was 18; that’s the last time I’ve been to the polls,” said Lyons, an economics senior. “I have no reason to vote. Politicians don’t listen to the needs of young people, and I have better things to do.”

Out of 169,243 people registered to vote in Fayette County, only 400 are registered in the Towers precinct, the area including UK’s campus, according to the Kentucky State Board of Elections’ Web site (

Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who is running for re-election, said he agrees that many college students feel like they don’t have an influence in government.

“Many people feel removed from the political process,” Fletcher said in an e-mail to the Kernel. “Too many people (think) they don’t have influence on the policy choices made by their government, or that those choices have little impact on their lives.”

Democratic challenger Steve Beshear said low voting numbers on college campuses are a result of the behavior of people in office.

“Too many politicians set a bad example, which causes our young people to lose confidence in government,” Beshear said in an e-mail to the Kernel.

Past incidents of “less than admirable behavior” from politicians are another reason Lyons said he doesn’t “bother with following candidates’ campaigns.”

“If I want to see someone cheat on their wife or steal money from their workplace, I can go back to my hometown,” Lyons said. “I don’t need to watch campaign commercials reminding me of what goes on in the government.”

Lyons said instead of waiting in line at the polls, he’ll be in one of his four Tuesday classes, waiting tables at Brooklyn Pizza or studying for a test he has at 8 a.m. on Wednesday.

“I have too much to do, maybe if I was just working or just going to school, or maybe if we had a day off from classes, then I’d go vote.” Lyons said. “But in all honesty, I don’t have a free second in my day.”

Not having free time shouldn’t be an excuse, said political science teaching assistant Josh Hargrove.

“We’re talking about the future,” Hargrove said. “Voting means having a hand in electing the future leaders, people who will hugely impact all of our lives, including students. There is absolutely no excuse for not wanting to take part in that.”

Alise Mayer said she has voted in every election since she registered on her 18th birthday and will vote tomorrow.

“People who think voting isn’t important frustrate me,” said Mayer, a political science sophomore. “I vote every chance I get. People who don’t vote are cheating themselves and the rest of us out of having leaders who really represent what the public wants.

In the Clifton precinct, which includes UK’s sorority and fraternity houses along Rose Street and Rose Lane to Woodland Avenue, 610 residents are registered.

“These numbers are embarrassing,” Mayer said. “We’re sending the message to politicians that we don’t care about anything, so why bother trying to address issues that might concern us?”

The issues that should be important to college students include the creation of high-wage jobs and keeping the “best and the brightest here in Kentucky,” Beshear said.

Fletcher agreed that students should be concerned with what jobs are waiting for them after graduation.

Lyons said that even with what he thinks is an improved focus on concerns of college students by Fletcher and Beshear, he doesn’t think the number of students who vote tomorrow will increase.

“I’d like to be optimistic; I’d like say that students are going to get out there and vote and start being concerned with the political process,” Lyons said. “But the truth of it is, we all have too much to worry about and too much to do. We’re too busy focusing on today to focus on tomorrow.”