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Ensuring the College Vote Counts

Young people will play a major role in the outcome of the Nov. 3 presidential election. Historically, this has not been the case as college students who account for a large portion of this number have voted at significantly lower rates. While some students did not feel that politics impacted them, others lacked access to voter information, and some were deterred by other factors. However, there was a major shift and increase in election participation seen in the 2018 midterm election.

According to political data analysis firm TargetSmart, there was a 188 percent increase in early voting in the 2018 election from 2014. The upswing in the 2018 midterm election was the result of various factors. Many universities across the country upped their efforts to register students and otherwise increase political involvement. Additional classes and requirements were created with the goal of raising political efficacy and understanding of elections within the college-aged voting bloc.

Relying predominantly on peer-to-peer outreach, Northwestern University registered 95 percent of eligible students in 2018. This shift served as a threat to officials in the Republican party, as data from the Pew Research Center shows that 58 percent of young adults age 18 to 25 either identified as or leaned Democratic. Tools of voter suppression were mighty in the 2018 midterm election, with states like Nevada making residency changes that impacted students in the eleventh hour.

The new wave of increased civic participation among college students will not ease up in this election. And frankly, neither will attempt to suppress this resilient group of voters. Tufts University Institute for Democracy and Higher Education Director, Nancy L. Thomas said that when the Coronavirus outbreak started she “realized immediately that election laws and rules were going to be a mess and there would be lots of efforts to disenfranchise certain groups, including college students.”

Despite whatever attempts may arise to suppress the student vote, school officials and students are determined to ensure that students are equipped with the tools to not only register but also vote in the upcoming election. Vanessa Velas, an 18-year-old freshman who is studying Political Science at Rochester University, realizes the important role that her age group will play in the election.

“It’s important for me to vote because I believe that anyone who has the right to vote should use it,” Velas, of Hyattsville, said. “For those in my age group, it is so much more important because we should be speaking out and voting for the change that we want to see in the future.”

Athletic officials at Georgia Institute of Technology in 9 of the institution’s Division I NCAA athletic programs have agreed to not hold mandatory athletic activities on election day to encourage students and staff to vote.

In like manner, the school’s Student Government Association and Faculty Executive Board passed a motion that “strongly urges” professors to not hold exams or synchronous lectures on election day. Tech officials have also announced that the McAmish Pavilion will be used as a polling location for the presidential election.

Kyle Smith, Executive Vice President of Georgia Tech’s Undergraduate Student Government said that “many of our policies have been set in place before we even had the ability to vote. So now, exercising our right to vote is important to say that this is where the people of our generation stand.”

Smith, a third-year Public Policy student, mentioned police reform, immigration reform, and climate change as some of his many priorities in the election.

No matter what tactics of voter suppression may stand in their way, one thing is clear: their voices will be heard at the ballot box.

For information on how to register to vote, election deadlines, polling places, and more please visit rockthevote.org/how-to-vote.

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