Students worried about nation’s future urge friends, family to vote

PNW students concerned about the nation’s direction are eagerly encouraging their classmates, friends and family to vote on Nov. 8.

“There’s a lot at stake for women and our future, even on a local level,” said Emily Kozina, a senior studying Broadcasting. “I believe that being vigilant and going to the polls will not only benefit you but others who cannot make their voices heard.”

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning Engagement at Tufts University estimated that 8.3 million young people who have turned 18 since the last election are eligible to vote in the 2022 midterm elections 

But young people historically are less involved than older voters. National exit polls conducted during the 2020 election found that people aged 18 to 29 voted at a rate of 53% — much higher than previous elections, but trailing voting rates for older citizens. For example, 40-to-49-year-old voters turned out at a rate of 68%. Meanwhile, 78% of voters who were 65 and older went to the polls.

Some studies show that young people are skeptical that their votes count.

Charlene Benoit, a senior Communication student who promotes the importance of voter registration on campus, has been debunking this narrative for months.

“Younger people may not see the power of voting because of the systems in place that suppress the very rights that we gained through legislation,” she said. “But the most important thing to remember is when you are in the ballot box, no one can stop you.”

She encourages students to get involved.

“Research who your local representatives are. Volunteer to help with polling so more people in your area have access,” said Benoit. “Have those awkward conversations with friends and family. Talk to your precinct leaders about issues that mean the most to you.

“You have the power to turn your convictions into action,” she said.

Yu Ouyang, an associate professor of Political Science and advisor to Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honor society, tries to educate students on how and where to vote.

“Voting is a critical part of how citizens participate in the political process,” said Ouyang. “Our elected officials help to make the laws and policies in this country, so it is important to vote and to select the individuals that best represent you.”

The message may be getting through to some students, who say they are motivated this election. 

“In my opinion, the biggest issue to address this election is women’s reproductive rights,” said John Tomczak, a senior studying Psychology. “As with the recent legislation done by the Supreme Court, the lack of access to abortion has fundamentally affected women, especially poor and POC women.”