After years and years of campaigns, debates, and nasty Facebook posts shared between relatives, November 8th, our national election day, is finally here. And for many Marist students who have never voted in an election before, the feelings on taking their first steps in civic engagement are certainly…mixed.
Based on data found on Fairvote.org, 60 percent of the US population voted in the previous Presidential election. But among younger voters in the age range of 18 to 29, the voter turnout has certainly been lacking. For the past 40 years of Presidential elections, this age group has turned out to the polls on Election Day at a rate 15 to 20 points lower than citizens 30 years and older, with no sign of this trend being curbed in a positive manner.
Melissa Gaeke, Director for Center of Civic Engagement and Leadership at Marist College, explained that this trend relates to the fact that, “college aged young people are motivated more about issues and driven by their individual preferences – so when they don’t align, then it may be an easier choice to sit out.”
Currently we are a part of an election where both major candidates, Clinton and Trump, are considerably disliked by the general public. Both of these candidates have tried to bring in the millennial vote, but certainly have fell flat. So many college students feel stuck with a choice instead of motivated to make a choice.
This lack of motivation is causing many Marist students to actively avoid this election, as Marist senior Louis Angillilo puts it, “I don’t want to actively take part in electing the worst U.S. President in history.”
But other members of the Marist community, like Associate Political Science Professor JoAnne Myers, feels that students who are sitting out this election are simply doing it for the wrong reasons.
“They don’t realize what these candidates are. People are being swayed, people just don’t have proper training in media literacy and ethics,” said Myers.
Myers does not blame the candidates for lack of youth voter turnout, but instead on another trend that has grown amongst youth voters over the years.
“We have to reinvigorate our civil society. Give back. Have a sense of community, we have lost it, lost the sense of public good. It’s a very “Me” generation,” said Myers.
This lack of community also affects our election as far as how much voters actually pay attention to the other issues on the ballot. This includes Senate elections, local elections, and even referendums put forth by each state that can make a huge impact moving forward.
Myers certainly is not surprised by this lack of attention, but certainly disappointed as she has noticed that laws that affect most people are the local and state laws not the national. If students were more aware of what was going on back home, and even payed attention to the elections going on here, they could actually foster positive change by voting.
But then there are still students out there who feel they are misinformed about the voting process, like Marist senior Dani Horbiak, who missed her absentee ballot deadline due to lack of awareness of when it was, and is not up to making the effort to drive three hours home to New Jersey on a school day to cast her vote.
“A college should provide information and resources to its students about elections and should encourage and support its students’ opportunity to vote,” said Gaeke
Here at Marist College that effort has been made, but the issue of whether it has worked is still up in the air.
Efforts made by the Student Government Association at Marist certainly have not been lackluster. SGA has posters hung up around campus reminding people to vote, and have crafted “Rock the Vote” pamphlets they have available in their office, which includes info on how to vote, different ways to register for voting, voting deadlines, and ways to vote if you speak a different language. They also have websites listed on their pamphlets that can help voters stay informed in a partisan fashion.
But the issue of lack of civic engagement emerges again, as even though SGA emphasizes the idea that “Your Vote is Your Voice,” many Marist students still feel like their voice isn’t worth being heard.
Gabi Revis, Resident Senator of SGA, and Secretary of Pi Sigma Alpha, Marist’s Politcal Science Honors Society, has certainly learned the dangers of lack of voter turnout in society.
“If everyone doesn’t vote on Election Day, the candidate favored by a majority of US citizens might actually lose because the candidate projected to lose might have a stronger turnout on Election Day, and that’s scary,” said Revis.
As soon as Revis came to Marist, she immediately learned about the importance of voting in society through her First Year Seminar, “Is Voting Enough?” taught by the late Dr. Danielle Langfield, where she learned that, “compared to other countries, we are lucky to have peaceful transfer of power through an election process.”
As far as the idea of “Your Vote is Your Voice,” Revis backs this idea up wholeheartedly.
“Voting is something you do for yourself. You can’t say anything about how an election turned out if you didn’t contribute your say in the matter by not making a choice,” said Revis. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t hurt to vote.”