The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday May 28th

UNC student political groups organize in preparation for 2016 election

As the country prepares for the presidential primaries in 2016, political groups on campus are organizing in an effort to increase the amount of voters who reach the polls.

The results of the 2012 election showed low youth turnout because of disenchantment and increased obstacles to vote.  

"The most common thing that a political scientist would point to would be the procedural things," said Timothy Ryan, a political science professor at UNC. "There's obstacles that young people have fewer resources to navigate."

But the UNC College Republicans and Young Democrats are formulating strategies to increase voter turnout.

The last presidential election saw 56.5 percent of North Carolina voters age 18 to 29 vote, noticeably less than the 68 percent turnout among all North Carolina voters.

In 2014, the U.S. Senate election between Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis was decided by less than 50,000 votes — and political groups from both sides are aware of the difference these young voters could make.

“We are working with the state party and national party to sort of just lay the groundwork for our teamwork in 2016 to mobilize our voters, to get our members out there to knock on doors, to make calls — things like that in order to promote the eventual nominee,” said Frank Pray, chairman of the UNC College Republicans. 

Khaled Jaouhari, president of UNC Young Democrats, said they are working on increasing voter registration in addition to contacting the Orange County Democratic Party. 

Ryan said strategies like these are important to increase voter turnout. 

“There used to be all these different things people tried to get people (to the polls) … They would try sending flyers in the mail, putting up flyers around campus, calling people on the phone," he said. "We have seen a lot of evidence those things are quite minimally effective — they don’t get that many extra people to the polls."

Face-to-face conversations, where potential voters are subject to a direct appeal and can receive assistance in registering to vote, are much more effective at increasing voter turnout, he said.

“So it is more of this retail thing that seems to be effective as opposed to more broadly cast campaigns. It’s really about hitting the pavement,” Ryan said.

He said social pressure, like finding out whether someone has voted in the past, can also be used to prompt increased turnout. 

College Republicans and Democrats will be working to register voters and later bring them to the polls.

"You'll see us in the Pit as Election Day approaches," Pray said.

Jaouhari said voter registration will begin in the Pit starting next week. On Election Day, he said the Young Democrats will walk people over or facilitate rides to the nearest polling place.

But Matt Hughes, Orange County Democratic Party chairman, expressed his concerns with the change in the date for the North Carolina presidential primary, which could happen if the current budget deal passes. 

He said the primary might move from its typical May date to March 15. 

Voting early, which allows students to submit their vote on a range of dates before the election day, is especially pressing this year because March 15 falls over UNC's spring break.  

“We encourage young voters to vote early, whether that be by ballot or something that they want to vote back in their own county,” Jaouhari said.

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