University Times

Stand Up and Fight

College student voting is suffering at a campus and national level; never before has activism been so critical to change.

Kyle Frizol, Copy Editor

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When it comes to student government at universities and colleges throughout the country, elections held to nominate leadership can be lacking, in more ways than one. This is the case at Cal State LA, where the Associated Students Inc. (ASI) struggle with student voter turnouts year after year during their general elections. Yet, with a total enrollment of nearly 28,000 as of fall 2016, only a fraction of students actually make the move to vote. In 2017’s ASI General Election, just 1,214 students voted for their student body government–less than 5% of the overall student population.

The issue of student voting lies deeper than in the argument that students do not know of these elections; it’s a testament to this generation’s deep-rooted feelings of the democratic voting system as well as the power of the individual’s voice.

At the University, ASI advertises its General Election each year through newsprint ads, posters and sandwich boards placed along high-traffic walkways on campus, and via social media channels. However, many students do not know more than the time and date of the election. They do not know what each candidate stands for, their political background or even what they want to do for the University if elected. It seems that the most critical information is the information that requires the most digging.

During its election campaign, ASI allows candidates to campaign from March 12 to April 25 this year. Throughout this period, there are various events scheduled to allow students to meet with candidates. However, these opportunities are severely limited. For example, ASI’s Candidate Meet and Greet offers a great opportunity to speak with candidates. Yet, it is only offered on one day throughout the campaign–from 2-4 p.m at the University-Student Union (U-SU) Plaza. If a student is busy during that time slot, then their one chance to actually meet each candidate is lost.

Alongside the Meet and Greet are other events for students to attend, namely the Candidate Debate and Q&A Sessions. There are a total of three sessions in which a different group of candidates will debate: college representatives, academic senators/reps-at-large and presidential and executive officers. These sessions serve to be a bit more impactful, but still are not reaching the majority of the student population; even if they reach the students, they aren’t creating an incentive to get out and vote.

To increase the dull 5% voter turnout each year, there needs to be a shift in how the student voting process works. As of now, it’s clear that the system in place now is ineffective.

In order to understand the mind of a student voter, it’s important to look at the bigger picture–state and federal voting behavior.

According to the Campus Vote Project, which works to solve campus voting issues, many students aren’t voting across the United States and many aren’t aware of the process:

“In 2008, 21% of young people ages 18-29 said they weren’t registered to vote because they missed the registration deadline. 6% said they didn’t know where or how to register.”

These statistics are signals of a larger issue in student participation.

In recent election years, students fell behind the national trend in voting. However, according to The Boston Globe, during the 2016 national election student voting spiked throughout the country:

“The divisive 2016 national election coincided with a surge in activism on college campuses around the country, as students protested against racial injustice and highlighted such problems as campus sexual assault and the high cost of college.”

The impact that activism had on campus involvement was critical as “turnout among college students in 2016 increased by more than 3 percentage points, to 48.3 percent, over turnout in 2012,” according to The Boston Globe.

Perhaps this trend can be reflected in the current stagnating turnout in student government elections; there just isn’t activism and feeling of motivation to get involved. The call to action isn’t there, and students are withholding their ethical duty to vote.

The 2018 General Election at the University is currently underway; students should come together and voice their concerns.

In a time where DACA funding is critical for undocumented Cal State LA student security, where innovation is limited by shallow budgets allocated to student activity and where candidates aren’t representing the needs of the collective student body, it is critical to consider that any improvement at the University goes well beyond voter turnout; it is a shift in the attitude of students. Look at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, where students have come together as a collective and began a national conversation on gun control. Change can and will happen when students come together and fight for change—stand up.

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