BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – The University of Colorado campus in Boulder looks a lot students are on summer break, but they’re not. They’re learning closed up in dorms and apartments and paying attention to politics.
“So we’re all excited. None of us could vote, for or against Trump last time,” said freshman Callie Keating, who planned to vote in her first presidential election.
Colorado has more voters between the ages of 18 and 29 registered to vote than ever for this election. The problem may be getting those ballots in.
“I feel like a lot of young people just don’t have faith in the system,” said grad student Will Yi. He’s not thrilled with his presidential choices. “I feel pretty hopeless. I mean I feel like, no matter the outcome, they’re both pretty bad.”
Engagement is one issue for the national non-partisan “Campus Election Engagement Project.”
“Well obviously students are not encountering election engagement activities on campus,” noted state director Jan Brennan.
Typically, campuses have politicians visiting for speeches, along with grass roots efforts on issues and voter registration drives. There’s no sign of that in person on campuses this year.
Online efforts show success with interested students, but not with those who are apathetic.
“Often colleges would be offering election 101 or offering candidates forums or different kinds of workshops and so students are having to go out and find this information now, “ said Brennan.
There are other reasons for not returning ballots.
“A lot of them are turned off just to politics in general just the divisiveness and the negativity,” said Brennan, noting that attack ads aren’t designed to go after the other candidate as much as they are at the iffy voter.
“That’s not really the impact of those kinds of ads. Those as primary impact is just to make people so discouraged and so turned off so they just don’t vote at all.”
Colorado has its own particular challenges due to its long ballot, likely to be the longest in the nation with eleven statewide ballot issues and 21 presidential candidates – more than any other state in both categories.
“And so just reading and understanding the ballot researchers say, would take 22 years of education. I think that’s a doctorate,” added Brennan.
The number one reason that both young people and all voters say they don’t vote, is they don’t feel confident they can make informed choices.
But there are also this year many students who want their voices heard. The question is, will they mount the effort to get the ballot in, with could be as tough as preparing for a difficult final.
“I think it’s something you should put in the time and effort for,” said Keating.