This November’s election involves several propositions that will directly affect college student’s education, health and future. But with the exception of the 2008 election, voter turnout among young college students has been historically low, significantly affecting governmental representation.
“You can look at other groups that vote very strongly, like senior citizens and the elderly. Politicians try not to cut Social Security or Medicare,” said Rodney A. Anderson, political science professor at Fresno State. “It is much easier to cut from a group that doesn’t have a strong voice.”
According to the Center of Information and Research of Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), 21.6 to 23.9 million Americans aged 18 to 19 voted in 2008. This number is higher than the 1972 statistics when the minimum voting age was lowered from 21 to 18.
According to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) website, 17 million of the 23.5 million eligible adults in the state during the June 2010 primary were registered to vote. Of them, 44 percent were registered as Democrats, 30 percent as Republicans and 20 percent declined to state or were independents. The number of registered Democrats has grown from 6.7 to 7.6 million, and the number of independents from 3 to 3.4 million, while the number of Republicans went down from 5.4 to 5.2 million.
“If only 50 percent of Democrats vote, but all Republicans vote, Republicans win,” said Fresno State political science professor Dennis Driggers. “That is how a minority group of people win an election in a democratic system. Minority rules.”
According to civicgroup.org, in 2008 in California, which was a record voting turn out for young voters, 51.1 percent of people aged 18 to 29 voted. Of these voters, 62 percent had some college experience. In 2006 only 25 percent of young voters aged 18 to 29 voted. In contrast, that same year 53 percent of voters aged 30 or older voted.
The most popular issue among college students is Proposition 19 to legalize marijuana and Proposition 25, which will change the number of legislative votes required to pass the California budget.
“I think we are represented, but not the capability that we could be represented, since not everyone votes,” said Jesus Sepulveda, mass communication and journalism major.
Reyna Alvarenga, also a mass communication and journalism freshman, is not registered to vote, but plans to. Like many students around campus, Alvarenga doesn’t know where to register.
“There usually are registration drives on campus, or you can actually go to the library or Student Union and get the registration form, fill it out and mail it in,” said Anderson.
Associate Students, Inc. (ASI) staffs a voting registration table on campus. Senator-at-large Jo Cha, who handles legislative affairs for ASI, is helping students who want to register to vote.
“During the time of Obama and McCain, a hundred students registered to vote,” said Cha, referencing the 2008 presidential election.
“It’s important because everything depends on voting,” said Cha. “We have the right to choose our governor, [a governor that will] help our education and [execute] different policies that will help our education.”
The voter registration forms in the library are located on the first floor past the reference desk on one of the bookcases to the left.
The registration forms, however, are not very visible.
“The reference doesn’t have enough room,” said Olivia C. Estrada, a library assistant from the Henry Madden Library.
Government buildings such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Federal Post Office and public libraries also have voting registration forms available.
On March 4, known as Day of Action, thousands of students across the state from different universities, including Fresno State, protested against California’s massive cuts to education.
Alvarenga, like many students, believe that voting is not the only way to get the younger generation’s opinion out there. She believes that public demonstrations are also needed to get attention from politicians.
ASI has traditionally set up a table to help students register to vote and that continues this week. They have also handed out the Easy Voter Guide by League of Women Voters.
The effort to get students involved is in place on Fresno State, but the outcome remains in the hands of individuals.
“Once college students are voting more, politicians might have a bigger concern,” said Sepulveda.