The Scarlet

Campus Election

Colleen Falconer, Contributing Writer

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I heard very little about Student Council elections prior to Eric Barrese’s Wednesday email reminding me to vote them in.

In Clark’s campus elections, almost every candidate that I voted for was running unopposed- with the exception of the write-in first year rep, but I was only aware of one person running in that category. And it seems such was the case for most positions on Student Council.

Though I’m sure everyone who was elected this week is more than qualified to hold their positions, it calls into question whether Clark does enough to promote on-campus civic engagement and running for office.  

The Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP) and similar institutions indicate the importance of encouraging college students to vote. Those who start voting young tend to continue, so promoting such civic engagement from the moment students arrive on campus can cultivate lifelong political engagement.

CEEP’s website suggests several ways for campus administrations to begin making a difference. Though these strategies are intended for state or federal elections, there’s no reason they can’t be applied to on-campus engagement as well.

The suggestions include establishing a core team that will “coordinate engagement efforts” and educate students on candidates and issues. CEEP also emphasizes the importance of making sure that students know where and when to vote, and recommends building excitement in the days leading up to the Election Day across a plethora of platforms.  

All of the strategies could be beneficial if employed by Clark’s administration. As it is, it doesn’t feel like the positions or elections are as publicized as they could be – many Clark students are only marginally aware of Student Council elections in the first place. As a result, fewer people are running, and voting doesn’t feel as important if there’s only one candidate to vote for.

The lower on-campus political activity is actually reflective of the low national youth voter turnout that has been permeating American elections for the last several decades. Though sources like The Conversation have asserted that “young people have the power to shape elections,” it is the potential that often goes unfulfilled. In 2014, less than 20% of 18- to 29-year-old citizens said they voted. Though that demographic represents 21% of the voting-eligible population, it composed the lowest youth voter turnout rate of any federal election

This can come about as a result of lack of information surrounding the voting process. Some students don’t know whether voting in federal elections or registering on campus will affect their federal financial aid. Many don’t know how or where to register.

For students, voting ought to be a source of empowerment, something to get excited about. The power of youth voters to shape elections is both undeniable and indispensable. Thus, it’s essential that campus communities make every effort to encourage us to participate: to run for office or at least cast a ballot.

Ultimately, voting in campus elections here at Clark is just as much our civic duty as voting in national elections; leadership has to begin on a local and fundamental level.

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