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U. Missouri Expects Large Student Turnout On Election Day

This story was written by Sam Butterfield, The Maneater

Young people are expected to turn out in higher numbers than in years past at polling places across the country on Tuesday.

Denise Lieberman, senior attorney for the Advancement Project, said she predicted that 76 percent of registered voters will vote and that some demographic groups will have an even higher rate.

"We think students will be among them," Lieberman said.

With a larger presence, however, young voters are expected to face more obstacles in exercising their democratic rights than other groups.

"Students tend to move a lot, and your polling place is determined by where you live now, and a lot of times students may have moved from one part of town to another or on or off campus," Lieberman said.

Lieberman said many youth voters are registered in their home states and do not realize that they must change their registration to vote in their place of residence.

Another factor that can impede youth voters is valid identification. Missouri's law for what constitutes sufficient ID is somewhat hazy, Lieberman said. Missouri passed a law in 2006 saying it would only accept Missouri-issued ID.

That law was since ruled unconstitutional and Lieberman said, "virtually anything is OK," including a student ID, an out-of-state driver's license and any document with a name and current address.

Lieberman said after the 2006 law was passed, many poll workers believed a Missouri ID card was the only valid form of identification, causing confusion and some youth voters to be turned away.

Organizations like the Advancement Project and Election Protection will be available to help ensure all voters can cast their ballot. Election Protection will have 10,000 lawyers on the phones Election Day for voters encountering problems.

Lieberman stressed that because such a high turnout is expected, technicalities arising from lack of resources at polling stations and problems with registration are likelier than ever.

"You guys now have three polling places on campus at Mizzou," she said. "Before, they probably didn't see a huge crowd. This time, that means the election authority, the county clerk, really needs to make sure there are going to be enough ballots and enough voting devices to handle a crowd that's probably going to be a lot bigger than it was in 2004 and 2006, and that can create a problem when these election authorities don't expect to see a high turnout from students."

MU College Democrats Vice President Brian Roach said he sees the high turnout as a sign of young peoples' enthusiasm for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who, he said, has generated energy and interest in politics among students and youth.

"We've registered thousands of students to vote," Roach said, "If you look at the registrants we've had, overwhelmingly those students are for Obama, and that's true across the country on campuses."

MU College Republicans Chairman Jonathan Ratliff said young people are contributing in more ways than just voting.

"The youth vote itself, I don't think, is as important as the impact young people make on the election," he said, "If you look at the people out there volunteering, out there knocking on doors, a lot of the time those are young people. The larger impact they make is they get others out to vote."

Election Protection spokeswoman Deb Greenspan said much of the election could hinge on the youth vote.

"I think it'll be very dependent on whether these voters actually turn out," she said. "Students should definitely know their rights and make sure they're registered and make sure they have all the information they need."

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