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Unprecedented election could lead to more young voters

Voter requirements To vote in North Dakota, you must be: * a U.S. citizen. * at least 18 years old on the day of an election. * a North Dakota resident, someone living in the state for 30 days. * a resident in the precinct for 30 days before the ...

Voter requirements

To vote in North Dakota, you must be:

* a U.S. citizen.

* at least 18 years old on the day of an election.

* a North Dakota resident, someone living in the state for 30 days.

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* a resident in the precinct for 30 days before the election.

* able to provide valid identification that includes current residential address and date of birth.

Valid forms of identification

* Current driver's license or non-driver's identification card

* Tribal government-issued identification

* Long-term care certificate provided by a North Dakota facility

* Voter's affidavit

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Average voter turnout in the United States for the last 10 presidential elections is 57.9 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Turnout is historically low among young people, and highest among those over 65 years old, according to the Census Bureau data.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, North Dakota voter turnout rate for the 2012 general election was 62.2 percent, higher than the national rate of 56.5 percent.

North Dakota is the only state that doesn't require voter registration, according to the North Dakota Office of the Secretary of State. University of Jamestown political science professor Tom Johnson said most of UJ's students are from North Dakota, so they are just as likely to vote in person as absentee because they don't have to register to vote.

According to data from the State Voices System, 182 absentee ballots were sent to Stutsman County voters between 18 and 30 years old for this November's election, half the number of absentee ballots that were sent to voters older than 75. However, the average number of absentee ballots sent to people between 18 and 30 is higher than those sent to voters between 30 and 60 years old. Absentee ballots were sent out 40 days before the election, according to the North Dakota Office of the Secretary of State.

Casey Bradley, Stutsman County auditor/chief operating officer, said election officials visit the University of Jamestown as well as nursing homes in the area to allow residents to register and vote absentee without the hassle.

Typically, the university will bus students to the Jamestown Civic Center to vote on Election Day, but the big group can jam up the process, Bradley said. Giving students an opportunity to vote absentee cuts down on their numbers on Election Day, he said.

"We're trying to create a good voting experience for everyone," Bradley said.

The county also offers early voting 15 days before the election at the Stutsman County Courthouse. As of Sunday, 1,676 Stutsman County residents over 55 years old voted early, compared to 719 between 18 and 54 years old, according to county data from CentralPoint. Bradley said younger voters usually come in on Election Day.

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Bradley said it's more convenient for election officials to go to nursing homes than for residents to make it to a polling place on Election Day.

"We do what we can to get people to vote," Bradley said.

John Lynch, UJ director of student activities, said this year the university will not be using the bus to take students to the Civic Center because of a lack of participation during the 2014 election. However, Lynch said they will provide a ride for students who are interested in voting.

Johnson said he hasn't seen an increase in student interest in voting in this election compared to past presidential elections. He said there seems to be a greater interest in voting during presidential elections.

"The typical Northern Plains student is not extremely interested in politics," Johnson said. "There are a few people who are politically motivated, but by and large, North Dakota is not the place to find that."

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 47.8 percent of North Dakota's population between 18 and 24 voted in 2012, higher than the national average of 38 percent. The percent of voters increased with the age of the group, and 71.9 percent of those 65 years or older in the state voted in 2012.

UJ student senate president Tori Getchell is an example of a politically motivated exception. Getchell has been in student senate for four years and said she has been interested in politics since high school.

"I have a hard time understanding people who don't exercise their right to vote," Getchell said. "I don't know why people wouldn't want to influence the outcome."

Getchell was 17 years old during the 2012 election, so this will be the first time she will vote in a presidential election. She said she is very excited to vote. Getchell will also be giving an exit poll at the Civic Center on Election Day.

Getchell said she has heard students say they're not going to vote because they don't like either presidential candidate or they feel their vote doesn't matter. Getchell said she has been encouraging people to vote since the beginning of the semester.

"Regardless if you don't like the presidential candidates, at least vote for local candidates," Getchell said. "These are the people who are going to affect you for the next four years."

Many students are at least aware of the issues in the election and are talking more about politics, especially on social media, Getchell said. She said she has seen more student interest in this election, especially because there is no precedent for either a woman or a non-politician candidate becoming president.

"This is going to be a historical election, and people want to be a part of it," Getchell said.

Young people may not vote because they don't care as much about issues that don't affect them, Getchell said. For example, many social issues that affect women, men don't care about, she said.

Getchell said she thinks more students vote Democrat because it is the party focusing on student loan plans and other issues that reflect concerns of young people. Candidates who show interest in state-specific issues also gain more support, she said.

"It's difficult for people in North Dakota to care about the election because some candidates haven't been here," Getchell said, referring to presidential candidates. "People portray that as saying the North Dakota vote doesn't matter."

North Dakota is unique because it doesn't require voter registration, Getchell said, and many people, especially out-of-state students, aren't aware of it. Many students think they can't vote because they don't have a North Dakota driver's license and aren't aware they are a resident after 30 days of living in the state, Getchell said. Getchell said she has distributed voting information around campus to help students understand the process.

Between the extensive media coverage, focus on social issues and non-traditional presidential candidates, Getchell said she thinks more young people will vote this year than before.

"There are more people in this age group interested and invested in this election," Getchell said.

Related Topics: UNIVERSITY OF JAMESTOWN
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