With the upcoming presidential election looming over the minds of Americans, it’s impossible not to think about what the future of this country might hold. Thankfully, United States citizens have the right and opportunity to make their voice heard through the voting process. There is one group of Americans that have infamously not shown up to vote in elections though; the college student. In just this last Super Tuesday the youth, anyone under 30, only made up 15% of the vote in Texas. Though younger people would likely argue that voting is valuable and it’s important to have your voice heard, college students still rarely show up to the polls. So why don’t students vote? There may not be one answer. When this question was presented to students and faculty alike, everyone gave different ideas and opinions. From the media meddling information, to voting laws, and even the candidates themselves, there is no shortage of possibilities as to why students don’t vote. But is the issue even with students? Political Science and Criminal Justice Professor Dr. Macaulay argued no.
“It's not really unique to students, it's really more of an age issue. In fact, students are more likely to vote than other people of their same age. So, education increases the likelihood that students vote. Overall, younger people do tend to vote a lot less frequently than older people do and I don't think anyone has a definitive answer for why but there's a lot of pretty good theories.”
Dr. Macaulay mentioned multiple ideas as to why younger people don’t tend to vote, but one thing he brought up more than anything was the voting process, believing that easier voter ID laws would increase student turnout. “The way the voter ID laws are constructed right now, you need an in-state driver's license to vote, and that's a deliberate effort. What that does is it makes sure that out of state students are at a disadvantage. If they don't have a passport or a military ID or a concealed carry license or any other sort of national ID they're actually not allowed to vote easily in Texas.”
Similarly, Marcus Rogers felt the voting process could be made easier for students to encourage them to vote. Rogers is the president of the Buffalo Democrats Club, a WT organization that brings together people of a similar political ideology. Rogers had the idea that having a polling place on campus would help increase student turnout.
“We don't have a polling station on campus. We have one very close to campus. But we don't have one, where students can go to the JBK or cafeteria or even the library. We could potentially get one on campus, that would increase voter turnout by a few percentage points.”
People have long argued the importance of various voting laws to keep the integrity of voting safe. However, it might ultimately be discouraging students from voting. Perhaps there is another way. Both Rogers and Dr. Macaulay argued that if more political organizations were encouraged, we would see a higher student engagement in politics and voting. Lawson Sullivan, a senior, studying pre occupational therapy, felt WT and students in general should be more open to conversation about politics and the voting process.
“I honestly think it shouldnt be shyly talked about around here. Sometimes I feel like people think people are going to get so worked up over their political beliefs. Maybe even more clubs that have more of a presence and talking about these types of things would help.” Sullivan also felt that more could be done by politicians to make it clear what they stood for, believing some students may not know what politicians think about certain issues. Making them less likely to vote. Sullivan noticed how some politicians have begun addressing this through social media.
“Unless something new comes about, social media presence is very important to winning elections, because it's an easy way to be active with people that are wanting you to get elected and are campaigning for you. Social media makes it so much easier to campaign”
Sullivan said. Glen Schnider, a junior, studying biology/pre medicine, also felt that politicians could do more to be more appealing to students. Saying more moderate candidates for students to identify with would be the best way to get more student engagement.
“I want to say the biggest thing would be to be more representative of the general population. Because I think a lot of people don't identify with our political parties anymore. We need candidates that are more moderate, I think there are a lot of centrist that feel lost.”
Schneider is also unhappy with the current registration process. In the last election, Schneider registered to vote through his high school, only to find out his registration forum was never mailed in, keeping him from voting.
“When you look at my experience with the school not actually registering me, that's a problem. You know, we have incompetent people who are doing that. I don't know if it was malicious or not but, obviously, it's probably harder to register than it should be,” Schneider said.
Stevi Breshears, a junior, studying new media, also felt an issue with the voting process is just the lack of time students might have. “The main issues would probably be finding time. And, just not being educated on the issues. I think that most of the time when people choose not to vote, they really don't understand what they're voting for or what they would be voting for.”
While the process can be tricky at times and solid information about the candidates can be hard to get a hold of, all the students agreed that no matter what, it's important to vote. Sullivan believed the impact students could have on our government through voting would lead to some big changes.
“I think it would be enough to see complete changes, you would see unexpected candidates get elected,” Sullivan said.
Schneider talked about the importance of making your voice and opinions heard to the government.
“I think just having your voice heard is important. It doesn't matter if your state's not going to vote for your candidate. What matters is that you send a message that you're here and this is what you think,” Schneider said.
And Breshears talked about how voting now will impact what we face tomorrow.
“This is the future that we're going to develop careers in and create our families and so I think that the decisions we make now and the people that we vote on and the policies that we vote on will affect those futures. I think a lot of people kind of just take it at face value and don't really see the importance in the long term effects but really it's especially important for young people to vote because this is their future, and they're deciding what their future is going to look like,” Breshears said. There may be a lot of different ideas about how we can fix youth turnout but above all we should recognize the importance of voting and how it affects the world we live and encourage everyone to partake in the voting process.