With the buzz of the upcoming presidential election ahead, Wittenberg students are finding ways to engage classmates and, more importantly, get them registered to vote.
“Getting the word out that this election is centered around issues salient to our generation will help people understand that we need to make our voices heard this time around,” senior Ryan Parmater said.
Parmater, along with fellow senior friends Kevin DeGulis and Maggie Ruppel, plan to host a voter registration event this spring in Founders to “provide students with an accessible vehicle to voice those opinions,” Parmater said.
In a report from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University in 2014, youth voter turnout fell to the lowest number recorded. Only 19.9 percent of young adults ages 18 to 29 years-old participated in voting, compared to an average of 26.6 percent in the past 40 years.
DeGulis credits reasons why youth voters are under-involved as “time, distractions and just college. Many college students are worried about the immediate future. This is a time to slow down and think about the country’s future,” he said.
For students like senior Carl Burgason, however, political involvement is at the forefront of his concern, by hosting a debate watch party for Bernie Sanders in Ness Auditorium last month. Burgason live-streamed the debate on a large projector, facilitated donations and registered attendees to vote with fellow classmates.
“I think most of the people who attended the event were registered, but that’s sort of the problem with events that are set up specifically in regard to the election: people who attend are people who are already actively engaged in the political process,” Burgason said.
Senior Michael Southard, president of College Republicans at Wittenberg, organizes a voter registration drive each year, regardless of party affiliation.
“We always have registration by the CDR, and will also go to residence halls,” Southard said. The student organization also works with the Ohio Republican Party and the Clark County Republican Party to push the Republican vote.
“The stakes are high in the 2016 elections; among other issues, there is a budget deficit and spending problem that continues to grow due to irresponsible fiscal policies, a government that continues to encroach upon and ignore civil liberties, and a foreign policy that has left us weakened on an international level,” Southard added.
In regard to the current political climate on Witt’s campus, Burgason feels there’s a good amount of political involvement; however, “it’s hard to categorize the campus as a whole. I see a ton of involvement in specific issues. Groups such as No Woman Left Behind and C.B.S. do a great job advocating for key issues on campus, and are actively involved in creating positive change in student life, but I’m not sure if that is necessarily ‘political,’” Burgason said.
DeGulis, Parmater and Ruppel hope to counter such overall lack of political involvement with their voter registration event this spring, incentivizing students with student band performances.
“Don’t buy into the notion that you are just one vote and you can’t make a difference,” Parmater said. “You may be one, but you are not the only one. We have a voice, and it is a right and a privilege to speak it.”
While the planning of the event is still underway, students can still register through the Clark County Board of Elections.