Former staffer: Student vote controversy is missing context

Former Log editor and media relations director Christopher Sampson knows a little about UWGB history. He was moved to write in from recent retirement to share some insight about the dispute involving the City of Green Bay Clerk’s Office and ease of voting for UW-Green Bay students living on campus. The flurry of state and even national publicity, Sampson argues, is missing a few basic nuances about UWGB’s student body. He writes:

“I won’t claim to know how the City of Green Bay should apportion its ‘early voting’ satellite locations, if any, but as a very interested observer I believe the media coverage has been remiss in repeating the assumption that student voters at UWGB are monolithically Democrat. The number of non-traditionals here — we’ve always had one of the higher percentages of returning adults in the UW System — argues for a voter profile not all that dissimilar from the wider community. Additionally, it has been my observation that, among the traditional-age students who live and vote on campus, there is decent representation in conservative causes and co-curricular groups. Yes, in general, college-age people skew progressive but, anecdotally, several faculty members over the years have mentioned there is solid diversity of opinion among students, often showing up in classroom discussion.  No less an expert than former Chancellor Bruce Shepard, trained as a political scientist, was dismissive of those who would stereotype the student body as uniformly, radically liberal.  ‘It’s a myth, at least here. Young people tend to vote as their parents do,’ Shepard would say, ‘and, on balance, this is a pretty conservative area.’  The one time (November 2006) I felt moved to check his assertion, I found it correct. Looking at results for the city voting ward that included Walter Way student residents, there was a nearly 3-1 majority against the constitutional gay-marriage prohibition that carried comfortably statewide. (That proposal yielded a huge split that was mainly generational, not partisan, with the youngest voters most strongly opposed.)  In contrast, and confirmation, the ward’s vote totals in other contested races, while favoring Democrats, were more balanced. My thoughts on the current controversy? It’s a question worth asking — Would satellite pre-voting at only one location be unfair? And, if so, how unfair? — but in my view the coverage hasn’t done justice to the range of student/citizen voters on campus.”

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