“My vote doesn’t make a difference.”
“The issues don’t concern me.”
“I don’t know how to register.”
You can hear statements like these on any campus in the country.
Sadly, turnout among college-age voters is usually low. Traditionally, voter turnout is even lower during interim elections such as we’re having next month. Millennials make up about 31 percent of the population eligible to vote, but voter turnout among the college-age demographic is typically dismal – much lower, for instance, than the turnout of Americans over 55.
In Washington, only 352,076 people ages 17 to 24 years old have registered to vote. Other age demographics have at least 690,000 people registered. College-age students are voting 50 percent less than all other ages in Washington.
On the Eastern Washington University campus, student government works hard to encourage students to register. In Washington, you can register online. The process is simple.
But probably the most significant reason we hear from students who don’t vote is that their vote doesn’t matter. Students, we’re here to tell you that your vote is crucial. In many midterm elections, results are determined by just a few votes.
In the Virginia House race just last year, after over 23,000 votes were cast and counted, they came to a tie. They ended up deciding the election by randomly drawing from a bowl! One vote would have made a difference.
Candidates running for office take stands on important topics. Issues such as funding for higher education, student debt, health care, child care, campus safety, and even Social Security and Medicare directly impact your life. If these issues – or others – matter to you, then you need to vote!
Why would elected officials support your concerns? They focus on people who support them. If college students don’t vote, elected representatives can easily overlook them.
No matter where you stand on an issue, or your political leanings, your voice matters. That’s why our state’s governor (a Democrat) and secretary of state (a Republican) have both made registering college students a priority for this upcoming election.
As a public university, EWU is committed to helping our students become productive, informed, active citizens. We all need to participate in the key functions of our society. Voting is fundamental to our citizenship.
Young people have the power to make a difference. Your voices should be heard at the polls on Election Day.
As we speak with students in the coming weeks, this is what we want to hear: “Of course I’m going to vote! Voting is one of the most important things I can do.”
Mary Cullinan is president of Eastern Washington University. Dante Tyler is president of the Associated Students of Eastern Washington University and a political science major.
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