Involvement, Voting: Using Student Liberties
Many journalists and political scientists alike fear our age group will not come out for the 2012 election. Based on the numbers, their fear is legitimate.
The voting group with the lowest participation is always the youth vote. Even in 2008, when a record number of voters between 18 and 29 voted, they still made up only 18 percent of eligible voters in that age group, according to the Roper Center Archives.
Only 58 percent of registered voters between 18 and 29 say they definitely intend to vote in 2012, according to the May-July 2012 Gallup poll. That is 20 percent less than any other group and 20 percent less than the 18-to-29 group in October 2008.
Because our age group has such low participation, we get very little attention from politicians and policymakers.
We simply do not have the financial resources needed to get our issues on the agenda, which means we need to turn to participation. By 2015, our generation will make up one-third of the electorate, according to Young Democrats of America.
We make up a substantial portion of the total voting population. We could potentially determine an election. Our issues ought to be addressed, but they won’t until we mobilize.
What a lot of students may not realize is that policy affects us and our futures, so our participation matters.
In July, President Obama signed an important transportation and student loans bill. The bill prevented interest rates on student loans from doubling. Had it not been signed, interest rates on nearly 7 million student loans would have doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, according to an article published by USA Today.
Policy affects us even more as we graduate and begin looking for jobs.
The health of the economy is often seen as reflective of the economic policies of an administration. Although it is impossible for a presidential administration to control the economy entirely, things like economic deregulation, tax cuts and stimulus checks alter the state of our economy and ultimately the job market.
People our age have increased concerns about the economy and getting jobs after graduation, but it becomes hard to complain when we don’t take the opportunity to participate in shaping the economy through voting for the policymakers who can influence the economy the most.
It is also important to remember that, as the youngest voting group, policies passed now will affect us the longest. Bad policy, or even just policy that our age group does not support, can be hard to overturn and may become something we simply have to live with. Basically, anything that happens now will undoubtedly have repercussions affecting our future.
As students, it is particularly important that we vote. We make up a very educated voting block, one capable of making informed choices. Through the UA, we have access to a number of academic resources not available to the general public. There is no reason to be an uninformed voter, and there is no reason not to vote.
There are several ways to get involved and participate in politics on campus.
The UA has a Young Democrats group, which plans to meet 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19 in the Union Art Gallery. They also have weekly phone banks on Tuesdays from 4-7 p.m. at the Washington County democratic headquarters.
“People have called this a choice election — choice in leadership and direction for the country,” said Matthew Seubert, president of Young Democrats, “but before that choice can be made, students have to choose: ‘Am I in, or am I out?’ Voting is a way of saying ‘I’m in,’ and so is volunteering.
“I’m in for a stronger America and a recovery based on investing in our students, our middle class and our future. I’m in, and if you are too, you can join the UAYDs at our next event.”
To get involved, like their Facebook, follow the UA Young Democrats on Twitter @uayd or visit their website, campusvotes.net, for volunteer and internship opportunities.
Not a democrat? The UA also has a College Republicans group, which had 150 students show up for their first meeting last week. Check out University of Arkansas College Republicans on Facebook, follow them on Twitter @UofAGOP or visit their website, arkcr.com.
Both groups are always accepting new members and would be glad to fill you in on their party’s platform.
Once you become an informed voter, be sure to register by Oct. 3 to assure that you can vote in the Nov. 4 election. You can register at your DMV, online, or this week at the ASG voter registration drive. ASG will be set up around campus throughout the week providing registration forms and sending them in to make sure you are registered in time.
To protect our future and remain relevant in the eyes of policymakers, we have to participate. It is not hard to get informed and registered.
Help shape our government and our future, and vote Nov. 4, 2012.
Ruth Bradley is a staff columnist. She is a senior art and political science major.