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Where Students Cast Votes Affects Local, National Elections

Where the students who come to Indiana from swing states cast their ballots could have a significant impact on the upcoming election.

For generations, Bloomington and Monroe County political candidates have courted the Indiana University student vote.  Statistics say it is a constituency that historically does not vote, so if a candidate can get younger voters to cast ballots for them, it is a little like playing with the house’s money.

It is a tack Monroe County Council candidate Skip Daley used at a recent candidate forum.

“I, as a citizen and a candidate for office wholeheartedly believe students, both the Ivy Tech and IU students, are full time residents of our community, and we hope that they will get involved and engaged,” Daley says. “The local issues that happen here are affecting them and they are important issues.”

Indiana residents have one more week to register to vote, but IU students from out of state are weighing their options to decide whether their vote will count more in their home state or their adopted, collegiate home town.

Last year, about a quarter of IU students came from out of state. About 6 percent of the school’s students come from battleground states where the selection results are in doubt between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

More students come to IU from Ohio than from any other state except Indiana and Illinois. Junior Ilana Borstein is from the Cleveland area and says since her home state could help decide the election, she will cast her vote there.

“I feel like this is a really controversial election and being that Ohio is a swing state, I think my vote can make a bigger impact in Ohio then it would in Indiana,” she says.

The non-profit group Long Distance Voter runs a website which helps students try to get the most out of their votes.  Executive Director Debra Cleaver says the site compares current polling data, 2008 election results and each state’s number of electoral college votes to help students make the choice.

“It’s very visual, there’s an arrow that literally points and says vote at school or vote back home and then what the website does based on where your vote is going to count more, either it gives you instructions on how to register to vote or how to register to vote and get your absentee ballot,” Cleaver says.

That registration matters, says IU political science professor Marjorie Hershey, because some states with large electoral vote counts will be closer than others, so small amounts of votes can swing a race.

“That could happen anywhere and Florida is a place it may well happen so people who are from Ohio, and Florida and Colorado and Virginia and other swing states have reasonable certainty that you stand a good chance of making a difference in the national election,” she says.

Voter registration in Indiana closes October 9.

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