Most voters are telling pollsters right now that their top concern is the economy. And if you’re a senior citizen, living on the fixed income of a social security check, it’s personal. AARP volunteer advisor Gene McManoway recently helped staff the tables at a job fair.
“We had a lot of AARP members, well beyond 50 plus, and they’re looking for work now. Some people are concerned if they can make it, especially if you’re trying to live on a small pension plan and your 401k is going down in value,” says McManoway.
McManoway says that seniors will be lining up at the polls to choose candidates who can restore value to their retirement accounts or ensure their pensions and social security aren’t squandered. He says health care is also a concern.
“As far as the health care costs, we all know how that’s going. It’s not just a social security or Medicare issue. It’s just an effect. Because the cost is going up even for some employers as they’re getting out of it. And now we have lay offs – makes it even worse,” McManoway says.
The nation’s economy will also be driving younger Louisvillians to their voting places. Young Professionals Association of Louisville board member Peter Wayne:
“It’s our generation’s first real experience of not knowing what the future’s going to hold. And it may not necessarily be as bright as what we have today,” says Wayne.
Wayne says congressional candidates have spent too much time talking about national issues and not enough time addressing the local issues young professionals care about…like securing funding for public transportation and downtown revitalization.
“The young professional loves the idea of being able to work and live and play all in the same area. You know I think our nation in total has seen a major change from the suburban lifestyle,” Wayne says.
Those concerns could hold more sway this election as record numbers of younger voters have registered. League of Women Voters head Teena Halbig also says she’s helped register more women, more minorities, and more newly naturalized citizens. She says voters want to participate in what they perceive as a dramatic contest.
“Some people want to vote because this is going to be a really historic election and they want to remember that forever that they voted when an African American ran, when a woman ran,” says Halbig.
Some of Louisville’s Catholic voters may still be agonizing over their choices. Catholic Conference of Kentucky head Reverend Patrick Delahanty has been making presentations to congregations about the church’s values and how members can vote with their faith. He says that while the presidential candidates may have distinct positions on abortion, their positions on what Reverend Delahanty says is the bigger issue, human dignity—shunning war, lifting up the poor—aren’t as clear cut for Catholics.
“And they’re trying to figure out, ‘which way do I go here?’ ‘What do I do to both promote these values, and who’s going to best carry this out?’ There is a struggle,” Rev. Delahanty says.
In the African American community, Louisville NAACP chapter president Raul Cunningham says the economy is the strongest motivator, just like it is among people from other backgrounds in Louisville. But there’s another factor.
“We will have a larger turnout than usual in the African American Community. And one of the reasons is that for the first time in history there is an African American running for president of the United States,” Cunningham says.
Nationwide polls also show that voters are concerned about the war in Iraq as well as the nation’s dependence on oil. Regardless of what gets them to the polls, voter turnout is expected to reach record levels.