The overall process and transition of entering college for the first time can feel both dramatic and exciting. Students undergo many changes and by default, experience many “first” moments, including being eligible to vote.
For many students at Kansas State University, the upcoming elections – which close today – will be the first time they can vote. This new ability encourages students to become fully engaged citizens in the issues at stake and allows them an opportunity to truly make a difference.
Some, however, believe the amount of students that will participate in the elections will be mediocre at best – like Erin Woods, sophomore in pre-journalism and mass communications.
Low student turnout
Woods, who worked as Gov. Sam Brownback’s 1st District field director in his reelection campaign this year, is worried that students are not showing enough interest in participating in the elections.
“If I had to guesstimate the amount of students I think will vote, I would say less than 30 percent,” Woods said.
Woods’ prediction stems from her time running an election booth in the K-State Student Union. She said students who did show an interest in the elections were hard to come by and other students seemed to be at a total loss about the elections in general.
Trenton Kennedy, freshman in political science and business management, agreed with Woods that students are either very interested or not interested at all in the campaigns.
“From what I’ve seen, it’s either one extreme or the other,” Kennedy said. “You either care about it and you’re really invested in it or you think it doesn’t really matter.”
Kennedy was able to draw this conclusion after also working an election booth in the Union. As the campus coordinator for Sen. Pat Roberts, Kennedy has the opportunity to hear firsthand the issues students feel to be extremely important for these particular elections.
Biggest student concerns
Woods and Kennedy said social education and agriculture seem to be the top concerns of students for this particular election.
“A big thing is education and you see that a lot in the governor’s race,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said education is a concern for students because it directly affects them. He also said agriculture is a heavy concern, especially in this area, because many Kansas students were raised with or are familiar with agriculture.
The fear of voting
Despite these being big concerns of students, Kennedy and Woods alike still said they feel students will neglect their voting rights. Part of this reason, according to Kennedy, stems from a sense of fear among young voters.
“I think kids our age are scared to vote because they just don’t know what the process is and they don’t know the candidates as well as they would want to,” Kennedy said.
Daniel Vogt, junior in construction science and management, said he doesn’t like to vote for the exact reasons that Kennedy pointed out.
“As a student that’s really busy with my school work and obligations, I don’t feel like I have enough knowledge about the elections to make an educated vote,” Vogt said.
Research your candidate
Eleanor Dickens, junior in anthropology, political science and international studies, said students should dig deeper by researching the candidates and their policies in order to make an informed decision.
“My advice to voters would be to not listen to the political ads that you see and to make your own opinion based on the raw facts that you can find,” Dickens said. “Both parties will portray things about themselves and their opponents that might be an exaggeration of the truth.”
According to Woods, students should do more research about current policies and issues to ensure that they are voting correctly.
“If people aren’t doing appropriate research then they might not be able to pick the candidate that is best in line with their views,” Woods said.
Knowledge is the answer
Dickens advises students, much like Vogt, to try their best to make time to gain knowledge about the elections and the candidates in order to fix this problem.
“Even though this time in our life is one of the busiest, and in a lot of ways the most confusing, I just encourage everyone to try to set some time aside to learn more and understand the importance of voting,” Dickens said.
Dickens, along with Kennedy and Woods, all agree that voting is an essential tool that students must start learning to utilize better. To see an impact in policies, such as those of education and agriculture, students must take a stand for what they believe in order to better the world for tomorrow.
“Use your resources – go online and look at voting records,” Kennedy said. “Read biographies and seek out the answers yourself. We are the generation that has the most potential to impact a large group of people.”