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For Many Syracuse Students, Election Day Is Their First Chance To Be Part Of A Decision The Entire World Is Waiting For

This story was written by Bethany Bump, Daily Orange

Scott Simpson's father joked that if his son voted for Sen. Barack Obama in today's election, he shouldn't come home from college.

"Most of my family always votes Republican, except for me, that is," said Simpson, a junior anthropology major at Syracuse University. "They don't like me now."

For most SU students, today marks the first opportunity to vote in a presidential election. While some young voters know whom they're voting for, others aren't so sure. Experts predict Tuesday's election may show the highest youth turnout in history.

In nearly every state that held primary or caucus elections earlier this year, youth voter turnout increased significantly, sometimes quadrupling from 2000 or 2004, reported in February.

Voter registration played a pivotal role in engaging the youth this election season, said Danny Hayes, a political science professor in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He said youth recruitment was a key tactic employed by the Obama campaign, and that he's noticed campus enthusiasm is heavily skewed toward Obama.

"He has devoted a considerable amount of time to mobilize young people," Hayes said. "I think once Obama was nominated, McCain couldn't really do anything to peel away at the youth vote, so he focused more on older people, which I think was a wise decision, at least strategically."

Eric Wood, of the New York Public Interest Research Group, said young voters should remember this is an election for more than just the presidency.

"Students need to not only vote for president, but also for their local congressmen and representative," Wood said. "They should not be surprised when they show up to the polls that there are other government positions to vote for, as well as city and state specific questions."

Hitting Close to Home

(UWIRE) -- Emily Maher, a freshman broadcast journalism major, said she found voting for her local officials just as important as voting for president.

Maher said it's important for her to keep up-to-date with local politics in Rhode Island, even though she lives in New York.

"It's very important because it's the local officials who will be determining what happens in my community even when I'm not there," she said.

Maher said her vote was based mainly on values she grew up with in her Pawtucket home.

"Voting has always been very important in my family," Maher said. "I have learned most of my ethical values from my family and I voted exactly the same as them. For me, voting was all about my freedom of speech. My state's presidential race is pretty much determined, but it is still so important to be part of this historic election."

Jordan Zeranti, a junior broadcast journalism major from Buffalo, N.Y., said her absentee vote served as freedom from her family's political beliefs.

"My vote was based on which candidate supported my ideals of the Iraq War and the economy, not that of my family," she said. "We are in a recession and, economically, we are in the worst place we have been since the Great Depression. All of us on campus are going out into the world soon, and it is important for student voters to consider the power of their vote."

Careful choices

(UWIRE) -- But Marta Mackiewicz, a fifth-year architecture major who voted in the 2004 election, said not every student shares enthusiasm for the voting process.

The Pennsylvania resident said she voted by absentee ballot for her home state, a key swing state in the election. She said students may not vote because they don't consider the ssues as relevant to them as they are to older generations.

"They're nowhere near as affected by the issues as people who have a steady income or are retiring or have seen their tax dollars go to waste," she said.

Despite campus enthusiasm, Samantha Schoenfeld said she thinks the absentee method of voting will confuse many first-time voters.

"The wording is so complicated that I think it might be hard for young voters to know what's being asked of them," said Schoenfeld, a freshman magazine journalism major. "Most first-time voters only know the presidential candidate and don't know (local candidates). So they pick them randomly, and that's not very effective."

Lindsay Fuller, a sophomore television, radio and film major, said she enjoys researching the candidates' positions on social issues so she can make an informed decision.

"It's something that we take for granted," she said. "It affects so much of our lives and people don't really realize it. Whoever becomes the next president is going to seriously affect our lives, so it's something we should be a part of."

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