This election season, Kansas Universitys 1,964 students who are originally from swing states could cast the most important votes for president.
A Web site called CountMore.org helps students attending college out of state choose the state where their votes count most. In swing states, determining the electoral votes could come down to a few hundred ballots. CountMore.org also provides information for students about how to register if they havent yet and when registrations are due in their home or school state.
Matt Lerner, originally from Topeka, helped create the site as an employee of Front Seat, a software company in Seattle. Lerner said the University had almost 2,000 students from swing states.
Liz Feigenbaum, Boston junior, said she registered when she turned 18 while she was still in high school. This year, Feigenbaum decided to request an absentee ballot from Massachusetts.
Lerner said the idea to create CountMore.org came from his work registering voters on college campuses during the 2004 election.
I would ask students if they were aware that their vote counted more back in Ohio, their home state, than their school state, Lerner said. Most students had no idea their vote actually mattered that much.
But Lerner said it was a big deal, especially when certain states, such as Ohio and Florida, can be determined by fewer than 600 votes, as was the case in the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
Keith Campbell, deputy clerk for elections in Douglas County, said the site neglected the importance of local elections.
Obviously, the Web site is focusing on the presidential elections, but what I think is more important for students to realize is that who they vote for locally could have more of an impact on their daily lives than who they vote for as president, Campbell said.
According to CountMore.org, the 2004 election results for Kansas were a margin victory of 25.73 percent. Bush had 736,456 votes, and John Kerry had 434,993. Kansas has six electoral votes, but Feigenbaums home state of Massachusetts has 12. When comparing Kansas to Massachusetts, CountMore.org said that it was a toss up between both states because neither is considered a swing state.
KU is 14th on the list of schools that arent swing states themselves, but have a lot of students from swing states, Lerner said.
Feigenbaum said students would be less likely to vote if they knew their state wasnt a swing state.
I think, generally speaking, if a student has evidence that their state doesnt matter as much as another state, that it would make them less inclined to vote, she said.
Lerner said students were in a unique position for voting.
They are the only group of people that can really choose which state they want to vote in, and I think most students dont realize what a huge choice that is, Lerner said.
But, Campbell said, students needed to think about the local issues and ask themselves what affects them and what was most important to them. He gave the Lawrence Transit System, also known as the T, as an example because the sales tax could increase to maintain bus service if voters approved the ballot questions.
He said that because students paid sales taxes in Douglas County, it was an important issue to consider.
It is the students decision to vote only for the president, Campbell said, but the local issues are just as important, if not more.