By Nick BeJeaux
During the midterm elections on Nov. 4, 13 percent of all registered voters in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 30 cast their ballots; that’s the highest turnout for a midterm election in that demographic since 1998. Here in Louisiana, that percentage doubled to 26 percent.
As any activist, organizer or campaign manager will tell you, getting people to the polls is hard; getting them to go back on Dec. 6 to vote in a runoff is even harder. When he isn’t helping save local coffee shops from closing down, Peter Jenkins volunteers as an organizer for the national organization Feminist Majority, where, among other things, he finds people who aren’t registered to vote and signs them up and makes sure they show up at the polls.
“After the voting closed on Nov. 4, we took 24 hours to register as many people as possible before the runoff deadline,” said Jenkins, who is registered as a Democrat. “We’ve been getting organizers on different campuses that are Democratically inclined – pro-choice, pro-women – but our main focus is organizing young voters; college-age students. So over the next  days or so, we’re going to be talking to people about why they need to be supporting Senator Landrieu, in our opinion, but we’re really pushing people to order their absentee ballots, whether they want to vote Democrat or Republican.”
According to 2014 LSU enrollment numbers, only 6,583 students of the total 30,147 are from East Baton Rouge Parish. 7,264 of the students that enrolled in 2014 are from other states or other countries. Jenkins says that often students are still only registered to vote in the district where their home address is, making absentee ballots the ideal way to vote; especially since it’s right around final exam season.
“One of the biggest things we find is that people are still registered back home; places like Monroe, Grambling, Lake Charles, Alexandria – and they’re not going to drive across the state on December 6, which is right before finals, and drive back,” he said. “So this is really an easy way for them to get the ballots, vote absentee and have their voices heard.”
According to numbers from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, 36 percent of Louisiana voters between 18 and 30 years of age voted for one of the three Republican candidates, while 64 voted for one of the five Democratic candidates. Gabrielle Dubroc, the secretary for the College Republicans at LSU, disputes those numbers and says exit polls clearly show that Republicans securely hold the youth vote.
“According to NBC exit polling, 47 percent of Louisianans aged 18 to 24 voted for Landrieu,” she said. You still don’t get a majority when you add Democrat Wayne Able’s 1 percent. The remaining 53 percent of young people voted Republican or Libertarian. The LSU College Republicans are confident that there will be an even larger push back against the failed liberal policies in the runoff.”
The College Republicans at LSU held a registration drive the day and night before the runoff deadline on Nov. 5 at 11:59 p.m. Unfortunately Dubroc could not confirm the exact number of students registered during the drive by deadline, but is confident young Republicans will return en masse to the polls.
“We’re confident that Republicans will turn out in even larger numbers for the runoff,” she said. “Louisianans want to defeat Senator Landrieu because she votes with the president 97 percent of the time. We want a Senator who votes with Louisiana 100 percent of the time. We want Bill Cassidy because he’s with us.”
However, Josh Turner, the President for LSU’s College Democrats (somewhat predictably) thinks that the youth vote will swing left, thanks to disenfranchising GOP policies.
“Democrats are promoting a much more friendly agenda for young Americans on all fronts – socially, economically, and fiscally; I think the Republican Party has pushed young voters away, especially in the last few years,” he said. “Republicans have had a hard time competing with the National Democratic platform while appealing to their base. One of the great things about Democrats is how inclusive we are.”
If you are not registered to vote, it is, unfortunately too late to do so in time for the runoff election. However, you can register to vote for the 2016 elections and double check your poll locations at www.geauxvote.com. If you have any difficulties registering, you should contact the office of your chosen political party.