DU students not aware of election

By Kaye Burnet | The Duquesne Duke

The upcoming Pittsburgh mayoral election apparently isn’t a major issue for most Duquesne students.

A majority of students polled were unable to name any candidates running for the city’s highest position. In a poll conducted on Academic Walk on Oct. 25, 100 random Duquesne students were asked to name at least one of the three candidates running for mayor. Only seven students were able to do so. Of those seven, only one could name all three.

Duquesne political science professor Lew Irwin said one of the reasons for this is that college-age voters are “transient,” living in one area for most of the year but feeling connected to somewhere else.

“To get a ballot they have to register at home and go through the process of getting an absentee ballot,” Irwin said. “Those who live off-campus have to change their permanent address and register for here.”

Another potential reason for voter apathy is that political parties do not target them as potential voters. Erika Davies, a student who lives off-campus in the Hill District, has noticed.

“It’s interesting that we live in the heart of the city, but we haven’t been campaigned to at all,” Davies said. “I’ve seen no signs, gotten no mail…maybe they recognize the college student demographic doesn’t care.”

That’s exactly the case, according to Irwin, even though Barack Obama was able to energize the same demographic in 2008.

“On a political campaign, it’s all about time and money,” Irwin said. “[Political parties] go to the ‘super voters’ – those who come out and vote time after time, consistently. They want the low hanging fruit.”

Irwin said that if college students want their voices to be heard, they will have to fight through the registration process and cast a ballot.

“One of the reasons the government is not responsive to young people is because as a group, young people just don’t vote,” Irwin said.

Some students see local elections as unimportant compared to presidential or congressional elections.

Megan Winters, president of Pi Sigma Alpha, Duquesne’s political science honors society, wants to draw people away from that thought.

“I hate the term ‘off-year elections.’ They don’t exist,” Winters said. “Every election year is important, not just presidential ones.”

Irwin agreed, saying that local elections “have a fairly direct and significant impact on citizens’ lives.”

“[The elections] cover things like public safety, taking care of roads, clearing the elements in winter, setting local tax rates and a whole host of services and aspects of day to day life,” Irwin said.

Irwin encouraged Duquesne students not to let the registration process keep them from casting a ballot in the future.

“There are on-campus resources through SGA, the Young Democrats or College Republicans,” Irwin said. “It’s already over this year, but every fall, the Student Government Association sets up a table in the Student Union to help students register.”