Courtesy Photo /
Newt Gingrich

Courtesy photo

Courtesy Photo / Newt Gingrich

Krisy Force

Michiganders will cast their votes for the Republican presidential candidate in the Feb. 28 primary, but based on previous voter turnout, few college students will be visiting the voting booths.

Don Zinman, a political science professor at Grand Valley State University, said many students do not vote in the general elections, let alone the primaries. Zinman said primary voters tend to have stronger political convictions
than those who vote only in the general election or not at all.

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, only 58 percent of U.S. citizens between ages 18 and 29 voted in the 2010 midterm election.

“Students who show up for primaries are students who are very politically engaged,” he said. “In the November election you will have more passive voters.”

However, the professor said primaries are important and should be taken seriously.

“If Republicans are going to be a majority party in the future they will have to at least draw parity with the Democrats among 18 through 29-year-old voters,” he said. “The decisions voters make today can shape a lifetime of voting habits. Primaries are the venue for voters to choose the leaders of their parties. Primaries can energize a party’s voters for the general election in November.”

Both Zinman and GVSU’s College Republicans president, Eric Bassett, said voting in any election is important.

“It is one of the most democratic things we can do as citizens,” Bassett said. “It is especially important for students to vote and have our voices heard if we want politicians to listen to issues important to us.”

Kristin Mahn, president of GVSU’s College Democrats, agreed with Bassett, adding that it is vital for students to vote despite party affiliation.

“People in our age group do not vote enough,” Mahn said. “This is really disappointing since we are the ones that will have to deal with the consequences of whoever is elected for decades
to come.”

To encourage students to get involved in the government and vote, the College Republicans are using word of mouth tactics and tabling to inform students of the election and the importance of voting. The group has also invited all the candidates to speak at GVSU, but have yet to receive any commitments.

The College Democrats are also holding a voter registration drive that will take place in April.

For now, though, Zinman said Republican students should embrace the opportunity to voice their opinion in the primary about which candidate they want to progress to the presidential election. He added that voting in this primary, if Republican, is key because it will be a very competitive election.

“(Everyone) thought it was going to be a Mitt Romney walk-away but now he is going to have to fight for it,” Zinman said. “I don’t think his home state advantage is all it is cracked up to be.”

Bassett said students can have a great impact on which candidates are chosen for leadership positions. “If we want to change the leadership in the White House then we need all Republican students to vote and be engaged,” Bassett said.