Idaho candidates in next week’s municipal elections shouldn’t count on a robust turnout from Gem State college students.
“Young people aren’t going to vote at all in the upcoming local election,” said Jasper LiCalzi, chair of the Political Economy Department at the College of Idaho. “I just don’t see it happening; too few youth know what’s going on in their local districts.”
According to the United States Census Bureau, 20 percent of individuals age 18-29 cast ballots in the 2014 elections—the lowest voter turnout among young adults in the past 40 years. As a result, student-run college organizations throughout the U.S., including Idaho, have decided to focus on 2016 for greater student political engagement.
“The  presidential election has captured the attention of many of my peers,” said Courtney Stoker, outreach coordinator for the Center for Volunteerism and Social Action at the University of Idaho. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like local politics get quite the same appeal because the issues they concern are inherently less interesting; new roads, sanitation systems, snow removal, etc.”
Organizers at Boise State University and the University of Idaho said they're turning to TurboVote, a phone application that encourages voter registration and reminds new voters where to cast their ballots. In addition, presidential debate viewing parties are already being held in student union buildings on both campuses.
“I think that the student body has definitely increased its political awareness on campus through the programs that we have provided,” said Brian Garretson, student body president at Boise State University. “That said, there’s always going to be that reluctance or resistance among students to vote if national, and especially local, issues are not directly affecting them.”
LiCalzi added that getting young adults to care about voting still remains a challenge in local elections, “but if you could vote on your cellphone or on Facebook, I bet the turnout would be astronomical,” he said.