By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Where are those college students?

I just got an e-mail from a long-time correspondent who reminded me of something that the cable pundits should have known Tuesday night. Remember when they were saying that Obama still had a chance because the college towns hadn’t reported? Well, guys, the semester hasn’t started yet.

I overlooked that because classes started at Northeastern last week. But we’re on an unusual schedule. Very few other schools start until next week, or in some cases even later. Shouldn’t the folks who make the big bucks have figured that out?

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  1. Tony

    Yeah, I was thinking about that too, after I looked at the turnout in NH’s big college towns this time versus the 2004 primary and the 2000 general elections. The main college towns are Durham, Hanover, Keene, and Plymouth [Manchester has a couple of colleges, SNHU and Hesser, but those are commuter schools]. Most of the students at Keene and Plymouth are in-state students. So, they probably voted in their hometowns which are scattered around the state. Durham is a mixed bag. While there are thousands of students from NH there, a lot of out-of-staters go there too. Dartmouth, in Hanover, has a ton of out-of-state students. Most of the in-state folks at UNH or Dartmouth probably voted at home. Out-of-staters were home on break. Some may have come back to work on campaigns or follow the primary, but the bulk of them were at their real homes. So, hoping that tens of thousands would vote on primary day in these four towns probably was not going to happen.Scott Spradling of WMUR-TV was reporting live from the Clinton HQ on primary eve stating the campaign didn’t want to declare victory until those late towns reported, even though AP had called the state for Clinton. Keene reported relatively early. Turnouts in Durham were low. Obama only won Hanover by a two-to-one margin and needed a huge turnout and a 10 to one margin to win it, since at that point he was already down by 5,000 to 6,000 votes. The issue of whether college students vote in their “real homes” or at their college homes has been a sticky issue in the state, especially in the wake of Kerry winning in 2004. They were angry that college students were allowed to vote and they believe these numbers helped Kerry win the state [Kerry won here by more than 9,000 votes. Kerry beat Bush in Durham by more than 2,500 votes, in Hanover by more than 3,700 votes, in Keene by more than 4,300, and in Plymouth by more than 1,100 votes. More than likely, even if all the college students had not voted, Kerry still would have won, but it would have been much tighter than it was. But that isn’t really the point for the GOP, it was the principle of “permanent residency” versus “temporary residency” or college attendance]. State Republicans were also furious about the fact that they saw school buses from Massachusetts cities and towns busing voters around to locations in the southern part of the state during 2004. They accused the Dems of busing in people from Massachusetts to vote, abusing our same-day voter registration policy. Of course, the Dems and union officials who were using the buses countered that the buses were rented for the day. But, the allegations were all over Boston talk radio at the time although nothing more came of the allegations. The Legislature had a number of bills come up in the 2005 session, mostly forwarded by conservatives, to address the issue of tighter same-day registration policies as well as college kids voting. Essentially their logic – and I have to agree with them slightly – is that those towns are not their homes. They live in other places and come to New Hampshire to go to school. So, they should vote absentee in their home states, not at their colleges. In an effort to increase younger voter turnout, a lot of college towns across the country have made it easier to vote in their towns, loosening registration requires. In Massachusetts, for example, you don’t have to show any proof of residency. However, this leads to some consternation in swing states, as you can imagine. In New Hampshire, you used to have to show a utility bill or a license to vote and now, it looks like those requirements are no longer policy, opening up the state to massive fraud by anyone with the ability to organize such a fraud. And, why should a student from New York vote in Hanover when all their parents live in New York and that is where the student actually lives and was raised? In addition, if a student has received local college aid, and changes their voter registration, therefore, changing their residency, they could risk losing their college aid. The Legislature rejected all the measures forwarded but the issues have remained. If we had a popular vote election, in would not matter where the college students voted. Since we have an Electoral College system, based on the state wins, it becomes an issue.

  2. Michael Pahre

    I heard a number of media outlets report just before primary day that most college students would not be back on-campus.This was being argued as a negative for Obama, since he was expected to carry the young vote.I don’t know why this reporting failed to bubble up to the guys doing the election night broadcasts. Maybe they need to do more reading and listening, and less talking.

  3. Anonymous

    They also failed to consider the differences between caucus and primary states, where college students can organize and participate in caucuses (as in Iowa) but using college students as field workers doesn’t have the same impact in a primary state.

  4. Jess

    Dartmouth was in session, opening their winter term on January 7. The rest of the schools weren’t back yet.When I went to college, I changed everything from my home state to my new state, including registering to vote, in my freshman year. The main reason was because I had just opened a checking account, and got lots of flack for having an out of state drivers’ license. Plus, I figured I wasn’t going to live with my parents again, so why keep their address?

  5. Anonymous

    When I was watching CNN that night, John King quoted a Clinton staffer that one of the college towns (I forget which one) had produced 2000 more votes overall than the total they anticipated. So maybe students did vote. In any event, it is all public record if anyone wants to bother to check. The campaigns are always way ahead of the press on election night. Generally they have someone where the count is happening, and know what the numbers mean to their candidate.

  6. O-FISH-L

    At 10:30 AM, Tony wrote: “[Manchester has a couple of colleges, SNHU and Hesser, but those are commuter schools].”—Tony, I’m sure there are some St. Anselm Hawks who’d love to dig their talons into you after you omitted their school, founded by the Benedictines in Manchester in 1889. While we now fully expect the Democrat candidates (and platform) to ignore Catholic moral beliefs, I wouldn’t expect anyone to ignore the 2000 students themselves.

  7. Anonymous

    When I was a college student back in the 60s, I registered and voted in the town (Dartmouth, MA)of my school. What I didn’t know then, and don’t know now, is how many students registered and voted in the location of their school? What percentage of the community’s voter rolls are made up of non year round residents? What effect does living in a college town (or area) effect how voters, including non students and academics, vote? The point of my questions is just how real is the idea that college town voting results are seriously affected by student voters, or is it just an urban fable that collapses under investigation?

  8. Anonymous

    o-fish-lThe Democrats ignore the Catholic teachings on sexuality in much the same way the GOP ignores Catholic teaching on social justice.Bob in Peabody

  9. Anonymous

    The Democrats ignore the Catholic teachings on sexuality in much the same way the GOP ignores Catholic teaching on social justice.Don’t forget the narrowing of the Pope’s”culture of death” teachings. The Pope’s teachings are consistent — he apposes abortion, war, and the death penalty. People like o-fish-l steal the Pope’s rhetoric, but only focus on abortion. It’s the same mechanism he uses to twist the Church’s teachings on homosexuality into hatred.

  10. O-FISH-L

    To Anon 11:08 PM. There’s no hatred here, my friend. Nor is there any need for me to twist the teachings of the church on homosexuality. As Coach Belichick likes to say, “Sometimes it is what it is.””Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency toward an intrinsic moral evil and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”–Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI)

  11. Anonymous

    o-fish-l,You mean the Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who defended the Church’s condemnation of Galileo for arguing that the Earth revolved around the sun?Not sure he’s a real good defense against claims of injustice and hatred.

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