By Connor Keesecker, News, Sports, and Public Affairs Director
From minimum wage, to marijuana, and the battle royal of the senatorial candidates, Alaskans have the opportunity to weigh in on a wide variety of issues this November. With such momentous issues, it should not be hard to get students to polls, right?
While some students may display interest in these issues, there are still some simple barriers keeping students from going to the ballot box. As the traditional student is between the ages of 18-25, many are are voting for the first time and even more are unregistered.
That is why there is UA votes.
The initiative, as Dana Sample with Student Commuter Services explains, works to promote student voter participation on campus. UA Votes focuses its efforts on giving students the opportunity to register for voting. For the large part, this is effective at getting students to the voting booth.
According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, of students who registered in the 2008 elections, over 87% voted. That turnout is huge in comparison with the larger registered population as a whole.
UA votes in the 2012 elections also attempted to build enthusiasm about the presidential elections by hosting the “Dogs and Debates” events in the Student Union.
“Its where we grilled hot dogs and had the presidential elections downstairs in the cafeteria on the big screen,” explains Sample. “And that got over 100 people or more to come to each one, including the vice presidential debates.”
While UA votes had success with the presidential elections, the midterm elections are not as sexy as the relatively simple choice of choosing a candidate. The statistics reflect this as well.
“In 2010, students that had voted in really high numbers in 2008 did not vote in the midterm elections,” explains Marcie Smith West Associated Director for the organization Campus Election Engagement Project.
CEEP as it is known, is partnering with UA votes in attempt to get more students voting in the mid-term elections. Marcie Smith-West got involved with CEEP after working with political campaigns and seeing how difficult it can be for political groups to engage students.
As Smith-West says about the student voter demographic, “Every time an election happens, you’re almost dealing with an entirely different population.”
While she does agree that registration is one of the most reliable methods for promoting student voter participation, for CEEP registration isn’t enough.
Marcie Smith-West elaborates, “We need to make sure they know what the next step is as well.”
So in order to boost political awareness and participation on the UAA Campus, CEEP and UA votes are hiring for a student intern to get more students to the polls. The student intern would attempt to coordinate activities and events that educate students on how to participate in elections.
CEEP and UAA are particularly focused on getting more students to the polls, because voting is highly addictive.
Marcie Smith-West has found that, “If a student, or anyone person votes in three elections they create a lifelong habit. If they do those three elections, the chances of them not voting are very, very slim.”
For CEEP and Dana Sample with Commuter Services, universities have a fundamental role in encouraging a civically active population.
For more information on CEEP visit http://www.campuselect.org/
For more information on the internship contact Dana Sample at firstname.lastname@example.org