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Spin Control

Young voters’ numbers lagging (still)

OLYMPIA -- The Secretary of State's office has some new numbers on voter registration among different age brackets, and they show what political experts have known for ages.

That young folks register to vote in lower percentages than they represent in the general population, and senior citizens sign up in higher -- much higher -- percentages than they represent.

Despite various registration initiatives targeting young voters, they don't show up on the voter rolls in particularly high numbers as of last month. OK, so it isn't a presidential election and they didn't have a charismatic candidate like Barack Obama to sign up and vote for (and perhaps by now they've decided that vote for Obama wasn't working so well for them, anyway.)

That 18 to 24 demographic, which is targeted by Rock the Vote, campus voter drives and various Social Media initiatives, made up about 8.8 percent of the registered voters as of Sept. 19. Figures from the 2010 Census show that they made up about 12.6 percent of the state's population.

It only gets a bit better for the next group, the 25 to 34 year olds. They are 15.5 percent of registered voters; they make up 18.2 percent of the population.

After 35, things start to get a bit more equal in terms of proportions. The group from 35 to 44 constitute 16.3 percent of the voters; they make up 17.6 percent of the population.

The 45 to 54 year olds represent 19.8 percent of the voters, they made up 19.2 percent of the population.

Then things start to reverse. The 55 to 65 year olds are 19.7 percent of the voters; they were 16.2 percent of the population.

The 65 and older crowd are 20 percent of the voter rolls; they were 16.1 percent of the population.

There's a caveat here: The Census figures show age, not eligibility, so there are some people in each voting block -- such as felons and those who aren't citizens, whether they're in the country legally -- who couldn't register even if they wanted. The Census, in theory any way, counts everyone, not just citizens.

But if one assumes that ineligibility to vote crosses all age groups about equally (it may actually hit harder in the middle age groups, where more people have had a chance to rack up felony convictions) there's further proof that younger folks are, essentially, staying away in droves.

About half of all Washington residents between 18 and 24 are registered to vote. That goes up to 60 percent from ages 25 to 34; 65 percent ages 35 to 44; 73 percent ages 45 to 54; 86 percent for ages 55 to 64 and 89 percent for those 65 and older.

A year ago, Spin Control  managed to torque a few young voters by harumphing over strategies to sign them up. Our harumph still stands.

BTW. You  have one week left to sign up to vote the easy way, by mail or by Internet. After that, you would actually have to go to the county elections office -- in person -- and fill out the forms.

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The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.