Dalton Kern, Staff Writer
February 26, 2016
“One vote doesn’t make a difference.”
“I don’t like any of the candidates this year.”
These are some of the excuses you may hear in November from people in the community who decide not to participate in the upcoming elections. These people may even be Guilford College students who talk on campus about political change but fail to show up at the polls when the time comes.
It is likely that only a small fraction of students and young adults in the Greensboro area will bother to vote. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, adult voters between the ages of 18 and 24 have recently had the lowest turnout in presidential elections across all age demographics since 1962.
The ones who suffer from low student turnout in elections are the students themselves. Without them placing pressure on politicians to address the challenges associated with being a millennial in modern-day America, issues such as the rising levels of student loans and public university funding get swept under the rug.
But you can’t just expect students to become invested in current issues by themselves.
“It is the responsibility of the major political parties and candidates to talk about issues that are important to the voters in language strong enough to make them want to vote,” said Assistant Professor of Political Science Robert Duncan.
Fortunately for Guilford, there are organizations on campus that seek to make students more aware of political issues and more involved in the process. Both the Democracy Matters club and the organization Ignite NC encourage students to wield their political influence.
“At Ignite NC, we connect the power of voting to the everyday lives of potential voters,” said junior and Ignite NC fellow Najha Zigbi-Johnson in an email interview. “The politicization of youth is achieved through helping them understand how local, state and national politics is intimately connected to their daily lives.”
Although on-campus clubs are great for getting the community involved, the state of North Carolina and even the federal government will need long-term reforms to alleviate this national issue.
“If we are truly a country that cares about having our citizens participate in the electoral process, then registering to vote should be as easy as possible,” said senior and Democracy Matters member Kiernan Colby.
One way to make the process easier would be for Election Day to become a national holiday, giving workers time to get to the polls.
Recent North Carolina laws requiring voter identification at all elections have made it more difficult for college students to vote, especially those born in another state. In fact, the North Carolina voter laws have been counterintuitive to solving the voter apathy movement by making the process to register and vote more time-consuming and costly.
While the legislators who passed these laws claim that identification requirements are necessary to prevent voter fraud, little evidence has been found to show that fraud exists on a significant scale.
“The current voter ID laws in NC are meant to disenfranchise working-class voters and voters of color,” said Zigbi-Johnson. “Voter ID laws actually have nothing to do with preventing voter fraud.”
This issue will require state and federal government reform. But most importantly, it will require all of us to practice our civic duty and make our voices heard at the grassroots level.
Although the deadline to register for the North Carolina primary has passed, there is still plenty of time to register in preparation for the general election.
Duncan urged all Americans to fulfill their obligation to participate in elections.
“Everyone eligible should vote, move to another country or stop complaining.”