This year, the youth vote is one of the most highly discussed topics of the U.S. presidential election. Will the Millennials at Bloomsburg University and across the country register to vote? Will they follow through on November 4?
In the past, young voters have been the cause of disturbing statistics: one of the steadiest declines in United States politics is that of the percent of youth who turn out for elections. This is since the 26th Amendment was instated, which gives 18- to 20-year-olds the right to vote.
Elaine McTaggart, a senior Communications Studies major at Bloomsburg University, believes that some young people don’t understand how important it is to cast a ballot. “College students don’t understand how important their decisions now will be in 10 years, so they don’t bother voting,” McTaggart said.
The 2008 election process has seen many changes so far, as voters have participated in a historical process leading to the first black president candidate to make it through the primaries. Another change seen in this election is that polls are showing 62 percent of college students promising to vote this year, as compared with 50 percent four years ago for the last election according to a study undertaken by Harvard.
This increase is impressive, but the question remains: are the youth voters ready to follow through on their promises, and truly “Rock the Vote,” as the popular MTV program promotes?
All over campus since last semester, students at Bloomsburg University have noticed this increased drive to vote amongst their fellow students. Student representatives and volunteers for Obama, McCain, and Clinton appeared on campus handing out information on the various candidates, and encouraged students to vote.
Chelsea Clinton spoke in the Union, drawing a crowd only restricted by the size of the room. This semester, a day doesn’t go by without students on the Quad or outside the Scranton Commons stopping other students and asking, “Are you registered to vote in Columbia County?” or, “Are you a registered Democrat/Republican?”
Greg Williams, a Secondary Education/Math major explained that the only way he sees the government evolving is to initiate change. “I registered to vote because I want to see changes made, and the only way to make change is to vote for change.”
This is a view shared by many students on campus; however, the disturbing issue is the number of students who refuse to register, or register just to get it over with. Anthony Morales, a sophomore at Bloomsburg, said he registered to vote because he was asked when he went to get a photo ID, and he felt like he was put on the spot.
The majority of registered voters aged 18 to 29 say they are Democratic-leaning, while approximately a third align themselves with the Republican Party according to a study done by the Pew Research Center. For all of the 2008 contests in various states where exit poll data is available, young voters made up approximately 14 percent of Democratic voters, up from a median of nine percent in the 2004 elections.
Also according to Pew, Obama has won the majority of the 2008 votes in the primaries for this age group in all but three states. This data is significant when one thinks that by 2015, this Millennial Generation will make up one-third of the electorate.
If this isn’t an important reason to register to vote, and to invest time in learning all you can about the candidates, what is?
Issues that directly affect college students such as higher education tax relief for tuition, and increased, more accessible financial aid are ones that are being discussed during this election process. Young voters must take responsibility for their own education and their own lives.
The first step is registering to vote. The true test is actually going to the polls on November 4th and placing a vote. Studies show that only 70 percent of registered voters actually go to the polls on Election Day. However, the problem is that approximately only 45 percent of young people are registered to begin with.
“I have every intention of voting on November 4th, and so do a lot of people, but things come up…It’s not convenient, it’s new and people don’t know how to do it,” Williams said, “The only way to know if college students really will vote, is to wait and see.”
Until Election Day, keep asking, “Are you registered to vote in this county?” Keep asking, “Would you like to register to vote?” And maybe students will ask themselves, “Why shouldn’t I register? Why shouldn’t I make a difference?”