By Amanda Morgan Fann, Asst. Photo Editor–
With Super Tuesday upon us and the 2020 Presidential election moving closer, the stakes are especially high to get out and vote. Accounting for a population of nearly twenty million nationwide, college-aged people have the opportunity to play a huge part in the democratic process, however only 28% of Americans ages 18 to 24 voted in 2018. Millennials and Gen Zers make up the largest share of eligible voters in 2020, but because of their historically-low voting rates, they have not been the largest voice of the electorate in previous years. What does all of this mean? It means that the youth voices of today, like mine, are not being heard.
But why is voter turnout for college aged people so low? The low rate could stem from a number of things, such as indefinite schedules that accompany the typical life of a college student, the hours of unsalaried jobs, a lack of information on voting registration deadlines, a feeling of uncertainty in political opinions because of unawareness on current political issues, and polling location inaccessibility.
I am sure these are not problems for all college-aged people, but most likely encounter at least one of these issues, especially students at UTC. While college, through coursework and engaging discourse, help formatively shape our political beliefs and values, what worries me is the fact that our university’s administration, SGA, and political clubs have not done all they can to help nourish and grow our overall political awareness regarding this election and beyond.
Throughout this election cycle I have not seen any tabling, handouts, or announcements for open discussion forums or debate viewing parties as I have walked around campus or have checked my school email notifications. Even when I was actively searching, I could not find any information. The only bit of political engagement I have seen was ONE mass email from political science student and UTC Young Democratic Socialists of America member Odessia Rogers giving details regarding polling place locations, carpool rides to the polls, and the final Bernie phone bank meeting before Super Tuesday (and this was only four days before Super Tuesday). Sure, students can watch the debates themselves when they come on, but when you have a twelve page paper due that week or you have already spent so much energy in classes and work that day, it is hard to find the enthusiasm or time to watch and engage, especially if you don’t even know when they are televised. Not many people would feel comfortable taking the time to go and vote if they are not confident in their knowledge on candidates, policies and political platforms. Students with busy schedules and multiple obligations are not going to actively seek opportunities for political engagement, it has to be presented to them.
We need to build an institutionalized, school-specific voting campaign that reaches as many students as possible, makes voting information widely available, and engages peers in conversations about the importance of participating in democracy. Everyone should be made to feel that their vote is important and that it can make a difference, because it is and it can.