Posted May 3, 2016
By VICTORIA DE CARDENAS
With the 2016 presidential election quickly approaching, Americans are exercising the right vote, many of these Americans being students.
According to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, young adult voters between the ages of 18 through 24 have consistently voted at lower rates than all other age groups in every presidential election since 1962.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s voting data also show that, on average, less than half eligible young adult voters will actually make it to the polls for a national presidential election.
But why are these numbers so low?
Casey Klofstad, professor of Civic Participation and Democracy at the University of Miami, believes the current youth generation is “very civically engaged, but they do not see politics as a mode for expressing that engagement.”
“Students feel their voices are being heard when volunteering for a project involving a non-profit organization,” said Klofstad. “Get involved with civic-minded groups on campus, or even more overly, political groups like the Young Democrats and College Republicans here at the University of Miami.”
What happens when someone does not identify with a certain political group? How would a student on campus seek and consume important political information? This is where nonpartisan groups come into play.
Organizations such as The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans. According to CIRCLE, 52 percent of young adults that prefer politicians to compromise than to stand firm on principle.
Sometimes, there is a lot of information for a new voter to digest and one of the most important steps is to learn the basics. Telling a new voter where to vote, when to vote and how to use the voting machines increases turnout.
Another organization that provides students with a digital voice is Campus Vote Project helps colleges and universities institutionalize reforms that empower students with the information they need to register and vote. CVP provides resources and information administrators and students can use to work together to overcome challenges student often face when voting.
A similar campaign at the University of Miami is trying to reach students locally.
Get Out The Vote is a nonpartisan organization at the University of Miami, which provides services likes registering students to vote, and provides unbiased information on each candidate in a political race.
President Monica Bustinza believes organizations like this are lacking on college campuses.
“Voting is a responsibility we have as American citizens. That’s what makes us such a great country. And we need schools that encourage us to go out and vote, instead of worrying about being politically correct,” he stated.
Bustinza is aware of the low voter turnout among students and has her own beliefs as to why this is.
“Students are having a hard time connecting to a candidate,” Bustinza believes. “We have Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders running for president, they are extreme opposites. I understand it’s a long process; to sit through months of debate and polling and conventions to get a better idea of the candidates, but it’s out civic duty to go to the ballots in November.”
Democracy YOUnited founder, Maydee Martinez, also believes that students are not being represented.
“The older generation does not understand the needs of today’s generation,” said Martinez. “I personally believe they are out of touch with the changing times and out of touch with the needs of historically disenfranchised communities.”
So how can candidates make the millennial vote feel important?
David Acosta, a member of College Republicans at UM, believes the Republican Party needs to emphasize the benefits of a small government and what it means for the future of the younger generation.
He said he believes fewer regulations and fewer taxes will spur private sector growth and provide “favorable hiring conditions for job providers.”
What about the Democratic side? When asked the Hillary Clinton campaign for their take on getting the millennial vote they were unable to provide a comment.
Candidates can spend months trying to connect with young voters but Klofstad believes it is deeper than not being connected to the presidential race.
“Voting is habitual, younger people have not had the time or legal ability, if they were under age 18 during the most recent election, to build up the habit.”
What are other ways students can get involved?
Heather Stevens, coordinator in the Office of Vice President Affairs at UM, believes student government organizations are the great way to get involved and learn the ropes when it comes to politics.
“Student Government is as vital a piece of politics as the largest scale. Being a concerned citizen and becoming invested in leaders is important because these are the people who make large scale decisions that impact you, your family and friends,” said Stevens.
Through student government, students are introduced to writing legislation in front of the student body, administrators and faculty.
“Student Government represent the voices of the ensure student body so they are often faced with problems their fellow students face, like problems communicating with academic advisors or financial services, and must think about how to resolve this problem with respect to the resources present for them,” Stevens said.
“They then must consider the large picture and make decisions to positively impact their community while balancing the fallout or perception for decisions, which brings critical thinking and sometimes moral reasoning into play,” she added.
Overall, many consider encouraging students to vote a necessity, and all politically active persons can agree at a starting point: Participate.
“The only way to gain representation is by exercising your civic voice. Those who remain silent will not get what they want from the government,” said Klofstad.
Here’s how students can get registered to vote in Florida for Fall 2016:
- Be a citizen of the United States;
- Be a Florida resident;
- Be 18 years old (You may pre-register to vote if you are 16 years old, but you cannot vote until you are 18 years old);
- Not have been adjudicated mentally incapacitated with respect to voting in Florida or any other state without having the right to vote restored;
- Not have been convicted of a felony without your civil rights having been restored; and
- Provide your current and valid Florida driver’s license number or Florida identification card number. If you do not have a Florida driver’s license number or a Florida identification card number then you must provide the last four digits of your Social Security number. If you do not have any of these items, you must write “none” in the box or field.
How to submit voter registration:
- Fill in the Voter Registration Application (English PDF/ Español PDF) online or print the application and write your information in with a black ballpoint pen.
- Print the application.
- Verify that all of the information on your application is complete. The office where you register, your decision not to register, your Social Security number, your Florida driver’s license number and your Florida identification card number will remain confidential and will be used only for voter registration purposes. Your signature can be viewed, but not copied. Other information becomes a public record.
- Sign your application. The application requires an original signature because you are swearing or affirming to an oath. If the information on the application is not true, the applicant can be convicted of a felony of the third degree and fined up to $5,000 and/or imprisoned for up to five years.
- Place the application in an envelope with a first class stamp.
- Mail the application to your county supervisor of Elections. You may also opt to mail or hand deliver the application to any supervisor of Elections’ office in the state, a driver’s license office, a voter registration agency including an armed forces recruitment office, public library, or the Division of Elections.
Notes: If your application is complete and you qualify as a voter, the supervisor of Elections will mail you a voter information card as official notification that you are registered to vote. Make sure all of the information on your card is correct. If you do not receive your card within two weeks, or if you have any questions, call your county supervisor of Elections. For new applicants, your registration date is the date your completed application is postmarked or hand delivered to any supervisor of Elections’ office in the state, a driver’s license office, a voter registration agency, including an armed forced recruitment office, public library or the Division of Elections. Generally, you must be registered for at least 29 days before you can vote in an election.
Voter information provided by Florida Division of Elections.