WPU Professor Says NJ Party System Has Abandoned Young Voters


Following the low voter turnout for the 2013 general election, Political Science Professor at William Paterson University Christine Kelly told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that it is the fault of those running for office that voter turnout from the younger generations was low.

“We are really failing a whole generation of up and coming voters,” Kelly said.

Only 35 percent of registered voters actually participated in the election and Kelly said officials are forgetting to look at those who are not registered and what the two parties can do to communicate to voters.

Kelly said that in New Jersey, the two parties have not come into the 21st century. She said the national parties are competing to identify the voters they need, and those are the young voters.

About 636,000 young voters voted in the last presidential election, but the turnout for the governor’s race was incredibly low. “You can’t say that it is the young people’s fault. You have to look at the ‘grown-ups’ and say, ‘Why aren’t you campaigning to the young people?'” Kelly said.

She said that the younger generations have many issues to worry about and do not have much leisure time because they work very hard. Kelly said that they are the most indebted generation in American history because of student loans and the limited number of jobs.

“They are facing real issues and they don’t care if you know Beyoncé. They want to know if you are going to fix their lives,” Kelly said.

Kelly said that if the campaigners talk about the issues that effect young people’s lives — even using social media — they will come out and vote.

“So the parties have abandoned the young voters and I would like to get the citizens of New Jersey to ask why,” Kelly said.

  • John Fugazzie

    The low voting turnout is the young voters fault, when will we expect everyone to be accountable, and those who educate them have failed in teaching them their civic responsibilty. It is hard to understand why young voters do not want to vote. campaigners do not spend money where they know they will not get votes. Get the young people to vote its everyones responsibility to educate them.

    maybe if all teachers were able to get all their students to vote, more candidates and elected officials would show more respect the teachers and young voters.

    • Christine Kelly

      Hi Mr Fugazzie,

      First, the idea that teachers should alone shoulder the mission of political parties seems to me an apology for the seamy business of non-competition among professional politicians. Your suggestion that it is the responsibility of teachers to “get their students to vote” neglects the fact most senior high school students turn 18 after the fall election cycle. But even if that weren’t true, the assumptions that civic (including voter) education is a priority in NJ’s K-12 NJ curriculum or in the national standards defined by No Child Left Behind (and Race to the Top) is also just incorrect. I agree 100% that civics should be a priority in K-12 education . But are you unaware that there is no social science testing on the NJ ASK under NCLB standards? Still, many heroic teachers serving our public schools and our democracy go to great lengths to encourage civic literacy. They get no reward in the metric-driven high stakes testing environment that has narrowed the curriculum and sidelined civics.
      But more to the point, you seem to be excusing both parties from doing their job and competing for new voters because young voters won’t vote? They logic is circular. Young voter DO VOTE, when their vote is sought! The facts are clear. The parties aren’t seeking their votes because its a waste of money, they are ignoring them because they are avoiding the serioius crises affecting them (jobs, education funding, student debt etc) In Christie’s case, his victory was more assured by not competing, by ignoring young voters and hoping for a low turnout. Isn’t that rewarding laziness?
      This is why young people distrust the political process–they intuit the gaming going on and the betrayal of democratic principles. After all, were not talking about selling soap here, and even if we were, any businesses that doesn’t compete, innovate or market the value of its products in search for new customers doesn’t survive.
      But here, in the world of NJ governance, terms like “landslide” are bestowed upon a victor in a race in which fewer votes were cast than in any of the last 5 governors races–including the last one he won. The Democrats performance is even more shameful because their win was guaranteed by expanding the scope of competition in a direct appeal to young” likely voters” who proved themselves in 2008 and 2012. It really ain’t rocket science.
      This “landslide” and PR distortion that has followed in the national media is a house of cards reflecting a strategy of non-competition and collusion. For those of us in higher education who do teach civic eduction (William Paterson in the ONLY university in New Jersey that requires 3 credits in Community & Civic Engagement of all students) our biggest hurdle is overcoming student feeling that entrenched interests have gamed the system and aren’t being held accountable. Who can blame them?

      • John Fugazzie

        I have to address some of your comments:

        If you saw my first statement

        “low voting turnout is the young voters fault” that is who is responsible and who should be accountable. i also never said teachers alone should shoulder the responsibility to educated students about civic responsibility, parents play a role too, but lets be honest that education process needs to start well before a young person turns 18 so when they do they have a respect for the voting privileged and right they have…. if you properly educate young people then they should want to vote because they have learned the value of it.

        Maybe teachers need to be less reward driven and be leaders do the right thing. Paying it forward and volunteering to help others is a major benefit to our society and no one who does that gets paid.

        Yes would be better if our educational system made it an important part of education, but those who fail us will stay in office much longer as we continue to have less voters. The idea that only 38 % of NJ voters voted in this past election is a disgrace. We can all point fingers at anyone be we all are to blame. But some of us are entrusted with our children when the are in their formative years and this is when education needs to be provided.

        to put all the blame campaigns and the people who are running for office ( who i am not a fan of just so you know) is also naive. They spend their ad dollars to get votes and will only spend them on those who are voting.

        • Christine Kelly

          Mr. Fuggazzie,
          With all due respect, if you listen and read carefully, I never put all the blame on the “campaigns”. In fact what I said was that a broken two-party system in NJ has failed a generation of young voters. I said it is not enough to put all the blame on young people, you have to ask the grown ups (in this case the party leaders) why they ignored a demographic that HAS PROVEN IT VOTES. We don’t expect young people to have all their skills, commitments and responsibilities in full bloom at 18 or even at 25 in any area of life, so to suggest young voters are as culpable as the adults who stayed away from the polls is, well, a little cranky and overwrought. Nothing turns a young person off more than an older person whose tone is “kids these days…”. Kids these days are a reflection of the policies and practices we as a nation and state encourage. I think collectively we have failed them more roundly than in any other time in US history.
          My point is two fold–the NJ party system doesn’t compete in the electorate as it mission demands, but instead relies stolid calculations married to a cynically narrow electorate. The pollsters’ techniques reinforce the pretense by recycling and feeding the media the stale opinions of the “likely voter”. These blocks of interests that drive the parties and the reporting were forged in an era in which industrial-manufacturing defined NJ’s economy and social fabric. Extinction should be the result but we get national press lauding a “landslide” — which really makes a mountain out of a mole-hill. My second point is that voter strategies of NJ’s major parties are not only anachronistic and undemocratic, but they abandon the hoards of young voters in our state that did vote in 2008/2012–why? Is it because they have no answers to the deep crisis curtailing their futures in this state? Ill let you and NJ TODAY viewers answer that for themselves but it seems likely to me.
          best wishes,

          • John Fugazzie

            With all due respect…Mr Fugazzie (spelled correctly) or John as I much prefer, I do listen. but cannot agree with your point at all, Someone by 18 should at least have been taught civic duty and and understanding of all the other life responsibilities they will need to survive and be successful, outside of their parents nest.

            We know the education system has failed in STEM skills and USA is falling behind in the world economy because of it. So who can we blame? the system? our leaders collectively?

            Maybe higher education as they accept large amounts of tuition and fees for a four/five year education should be accountable. How can they not equip their graduates for life after college?

            We know they can’t find meaningful jobs. 31% have to take jobs that they didn’t need their degree to be able to get. Your view that young people cannot be expected to play responsible roles in our voting system unless they are marketed to is clearly a sad view for the future of our country.

            You want more political parties? Just look at other countries around the world that have multi-party systems, they are not working and are actually worse off than we are.

            They apprentice are never taught responsibility and accountability for themselves and their actions. Everyone is part of the “system” and those who accept pay from the”system” but see no role in the correction needed or powerless have missed a very important point.

            Lets get to the bottom who is responsible and who has not done the job and remove them. To blame older persons is very cranky too.

            We need less career politicians and less career educators who work with some sense of entitlement that anything they didn’t create is not their problem or their responsibility to fix.

            It takes courage to stimulate change, and strong belief in real wold people and real world solutions. To change systems that are broken you need to change them from within. We need to be teaching our young people how to be courageous. Its a tough world out there and not going to get easier.

            I also firmly believe that if yo don’t vote you have no right to complain. And those of us who do vote do not have to listen to those who do not.

            It takes no skill to identify what is broken it takes major skill to do the work to fix it.

            Maybe we need a panel discussion on all this in front of students and recent grads… I am game if you are.

          • Christine Kelly

            Thank you for sharing. Im busy teaching and grading so I have to move on, but I will suggest that it is very important to have some measured evidence when making claims like countries with multi-party systems are much worse off than the US. I know you have the best of intentions but there are dramatic and inflammatory statements here that really have no basis in fact. And again, with all due respect Mr. Fugazzie, I have no idea what your do for a living or what your contribution to making change or instilling inyoung people the skills, courage and commitment to civic engagement and political problem-solving, but I promise you, I would never disparage an entire profession the way you disparage educators in this regard. You do so without facts, research and or the kind of measured reason we educators are in the trenches trying to develop against the tide of cuts and professional disparagements like this. I don’t know how in the wake of the Wall Street meltdown, teachers have become the new vilains and scapegoats. Its really makes no sense. Its a calling, not a profit making enterprise.
            Incidentally, today there was a conference at William Paterson University. -It was titled “Whose Higher Education?” and featured students and experts in higher education policy. The fact is, it does take great skill to find out what is broken in any arena.. Just ask a mechanic, electrician or computer scientist. I don’t underestimate their expertise and skill. It might be worthwhile to extend a litlte of that respect to educators as well. That will be it from me.. I have research and grading to complete!