Voting season is upon us, as evidenced by the recent gubernatorial debate at UCCS, campaign ads and those around campus urging students to register to vote. As an 18-yearold, this will be the fi rst November I am able to vote.
I am not apathetic about America’s political system, nor do I lack concern for the welfare of our nation. I am, simply put, uneducated. I don’t feel like I know enough about the issues and the candidates to vote confi dently.
Am I ready? I don’t know, but I’m not alone. “I don’t feel prepared [to vote] at all,” said Kristen Laroy, freshman communications major.
A lot of 18-year-olds are like me. We are fresh out of high school and there is a lot on our plate with thinking about majors and career paths and learning how to be independent. For some of us, this may be the fi rst time we are away from our families and living on our own.
Although I am blessed with the ability to have a say in my government, I tend to take my rights for granted. The fact that I am allowed to vote seems like a given.
However, UCCS students recognize the importance of voting.
“Many men and women have paid their lives for our right to vote and it would be selfish not to use this right,” said Maria Snyder, freshman nursing major.
We should keep in mind that the voting age was not always 18. Prior to March 1971, the legal voting age was still 21-years-old, though young men could be drafted to fight at 18.
But once the draft to fight in Vietnam swept 18-year-olds into the war, the cry of citizens became “old enough to fight, old enough to vote.” As a result, Congress passed the 26th Amendment, which lowered the legal voting age to 18.
50 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted in 1972, but by 1988, the young voter turnout had dropped to 36 percent. Today, the number continues to fall. According to a study done in 2008, fewer than half of the 18-year-old citizens in America are even registered to vote.
Laroy voiced her opinion on the steadily declining percentage of young pollsters.
“I think people aren’t aware of the elections and don’t know what they would be voting on. I assume people don’t want to work hard and fi gure all that out.” Junior Collene Larson had a similar opinion. “It has to do with a lack of motivation. Students are just lazy and probably brush off how elections affect them,” she said.
Whose job is it, then, to inform the nation’s youth about the current state of our nation?
I believe that college campuses could play a huge role. There are not many places like it. Every day, hundreds of thousands of young American voters congregate at their respective campuses. UCCS could take advantage of this phenomenon and help to inform and prepare students to vote.
“Have students stand around campus and offer to help you register to vote. It’s kinda annoying but it’s effective,” Larson said.
Short, informative seminars leading up to Election Day would be beneficial. Both sides of a current issue could be presented, or maybe information about those running for office.
Incentive to attend could be as easy as free clothing, according to Laroy. “Free t-shirts always seem to get people to participate.”
As young voters with the freedom to impact our nation, take advantage of the rights we’ve been given. Don’t squander the right to vote: what so many have fought for and what so many in the world have been denied.
Get registered, get educated, and get involved in this November’s elections.