In less than two months, college students will be eligible to vote for the president of the United States for the first time. However, less than half of millennials will actually go to the polls on Nov 8.
Only 46 percent of millennials showed up at the voting booth in the 2012 presidential election, according to a study by the Center for Information & Research on Civil Learning Engagement. Sociologists are still working to crack the trend of apathetic young voters, but lack of knowledge on voter registration and inability to travel to their designated polling stations on Election Day are problems that often prohibit college students from voting.
Jessica Vaught, 20, a junior double major in Spanish and English secondary education, is using her social media platforms and word of mouth to get the message out.
“I just like to push people to vote all the time no matter what because once you give up your vote you’re giving up everything that so many people fought for you to have,” Vaught said.
Vaught said she is eager to vote in her first presidential election, and she’s doing everything she can to inspire her peers to participate as well. She said she even helped her roommate request an absentee ballot a few weeks ago.
Since she cannot drive home to her polling place in Ohio on Election Day, Vaught said she mailed in her absentee ballot a few weeks ago. She also offered to assist anyone else who needs help registering to vote or requesting an absentee ballot on Facebook.
“If you go to college eight hours away, you can’t drive home for one day and vote,” Vaught said. “So that’s why it’s important to get your absentee ballot in because the issues are starting to affect us more and more.”
Students for Rand (SFR), a politically-oriented student group on campus that promotes the reelection of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, conducted a survey concerning students’ voter registration status earlier this semester to promote political awareness. SFR President Kacy Coldiron, a junior history major, said SFR found about 85 percent of the 60 respondents are registered voters. However, he was quick to note that those results may not be indicative of the whole campus, as the students who participated in the voluntary survey likely tended to be more politically active anyway.
“I get a lot of people who say ‘I don’t know anything about politics,’” Coldiron said.
Alexander Smith, chapter president of the College Democrats (CD), has also noticed a lack of political interest among students.
“In the past, it’s been apathetic,” said Smith.
He said CD hopes to change that with a major voter registration push in the coming weeks.
On Thursday, Sept. 22, CD and representatives from Madison County Democrats hosted a voter registration drive on Powell Corner to electronically register students to vote using phones and tablets for Constitution Week. CD also hopes to host additional voter registration drives until the October 11 deadline, Smith said.
College Republicans and Young Americans for Liberty did not respond to requests for information about their upcoming activities, but Smith noted that in the past both of these groups have worked with CD in a combined effort to register students to vote. He also said representatives of any group are not permitted to influence a person to register for any particular party, as their only purpose is to help with the registering process.
For those who prefer to apply from the comfort of their dorm rooms, the registration and absentee ballot processes are generally simple. Details vary by state, but numerous websites make it easy. Vaught recommended rockthevote.com, where anyone can register to vote, check their registration status, get absentee ballot information and find candidate information and deadlines.
Kentucky residents can find the voter registration application online through the office of the secretary of state. The EKU Office of Student Life plans to help students with last minute registration on Oct. 11 using Kentucky’s online registration system. Students can request a mail-in absentee ballot through a phone call to their county clerk’s office, and a completed ballot must be sent by 6 p.m. Election Day.