Why don’t college students vote? 

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Voting is an integral part of democracy. Despite making up a large portion of the population, college students are a poorly represented demographic in voting. Photo by Arnaud Jaegers on Unsplash.

In the 2018 midterm election, a study by Tufts University in Massachusetts found the national student voting rate to be 40.3%. This was apparently an improvement however, as it was “double the rate of the last midterm” election in 2014. It’s a sad day when we consider four out of every 10 college students voting to be a good voter turnout rate. These students are supposed to be smart enough to get into college, smart enough to be taking challenging courses and smart enough to be taking difficult assessments, shouldn’t they be smart enough to color in a few circles? Or is there possibly some other reason for the lack of voting? The relatively low percentage of college students voting is certainly an issue and access to voting can help increase these numbers. There are certainly easy steps that can be taken to solve this issue. 

The reality is that college students face a unclear situation when it comes to voting. Vote.org indicates that college students have a choice between voting in their hometown, or at their school as they qualify as having dual residency. That being said, most students would likely find it easier to vote at their college as the timing of the election makes it more convenient for them and voting at home may require an absentee ballot. Despite the convenience voting on campus would provide to students, “in 2020, 74% of college campuses did not have any in-person voting options on campus.” This leaves students confused as to where to vote, with one option being less convenient and the other being less accessible for many. 

Despite these issues, there are a number of solutions that the government and universities can implement to make this process more simple. I would propose that all colleges make registering to vote a routine part of their orientation. Given that students at the University of Connecticut already have to go through an extensive list of pre-orientation tasks, why not add one more item that encourages students to register to vote either in the area where their specific institution is located or in their hometown where they can request an absentee ballot? You shouldn’t force students to do this, but there’s no reason that registering to vote can’t be an item on the UConn pre-orientation checklist  clearly marked as optional. This not only reminds students to register to vote in general, but could also list their options regarding voting locations. Universities can provide students with information to help clarify the process and make them aware of their voting options. 

The second part of this proposal would call for all universities to ensure that they have a polling location on campus where all students can vote. Students who register to vote on campus could utilize and would benefit from this polling location. Having a polling location on campus not only increases accessibility, but the simple act of others voting in a on campus will likely bring awareness to the voting process. Seeing people physically vote would likely remind and encourage other voters to do the same. Overall, this two-part process informs students of their voting options and then gives them easy access to a polling location. In a nation where the student voter rate is less than half of the total student population, anything that helps make the process easier and more accessible can go a long way to encouraging increased democratic participation. 

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