On November 5, we will be asked to vote on several important candidates and issues, such as governor, several state and federal offices, state cabinet positions, a statewide education amendment and a referendum on secondhand smoking. As students, most of us have an opinion on some or all of these subjects. Most of us agree with one candidate over another. In class, when asked about some of the same issues that will be on the November 5 ballot, many of us participate and whole-heartedly defend our points of view. Our opinions, however, are often ignored by politicians. We seldom have candidates for office visiting our classrooms or tackling issues that concern our age group. We don’t see them visiting our campus and shaking hands as they do when they visit retirement homes or civic groups. Their lack of attention on matters that concern us is not entirely their fault, however. Much of the blame falls solely on our shoulders. The unfortunate fact is that most college students just don’t vote.
According to the Center for Voting and Democracy, voting among college students has dropped steadily since 1972. Today, only 48% of students are registered to vote and just 32% have actually voted. In contrast, 67% of senior citizens vote and 62% of people between the ages of 45-64 vote.
Much of society attempts to explain our lack of involvement as apathy. Most of us have heard at one point or another that our generation does not care about the issues that affect our daily lives. Most of us will agree that nothing could be further from the truth. Most of us do care about the issues that are at the center of state and political debate: education costs and federal aid, employment, the economy and the threat of war. Our problem isn’t that we don’t care – it’s that we don’t vote.
With over nine million of us nationwide, voting should be one of our top priorities. In Florida alone, if all of the college students that were registered to vote did so on November 5, we would be a massive voting block. We could, in one sweep, change the course of politics in this state. We are, after all, at an advantage over most voting blocks. We are educated, without exception. Most voting blocks have a small percentage of its members that have a college education and are current on issues. With us, a college education is our common link. It is what defines our block. In addition, many of our classes force us to be current on economic, political or social issues. Therefore, we wouldn’t be powerful just for being voters, but instead for being educated voters.
Politicians would find it more difficult to cheat or lie. They’d know that at least one voting block – college students – have enough sense to see through their rhetoric. To say that we could change the course of politics is an understatement.
Let’s start here, at UM. Register today, online or with an organization. Find out where to vote and what times the precincts are open. If you’re from out of town, vote absentee. It’s just as easy and much more convenient. When you see petition drives on campus, stop and listen to the issue and decide whether to sign it. If you’re the leader of a campus organization, invite candidates to speak and ask the Hurricane to cover it. Finally, go vote. After all, as our leaders enjoy reminding us, we are the future. Let’s decide for ourselves what we want it to look like.