Power of student voting still untapped, Bosco says

George Miller, then-freshman in civil engineering, registers to vote for the 2016 presidential election on March 21, 2016. (Archive photo by Austin Fuller | Collegian Media Group)

At only eleven years old, vice president of student life and dean of students Pat Bosco was going door-to-door with candidate brochures to help his aunt Mary, a precinct captain, inform citizens on politicians.

Bosco, remembering his early involvement in politics, said his passion for the power of the vote came at a young age.

To Bosco, voting is a crucial role of citizenship for students as it upholds American democracy. That’s why he encourages students to vote, he said.

According to the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, large numbers of college students nationwide are not voting. The voting rate for institutions of higher education was at about 50.4 percent in 2016. At K-State in that same year, the voting rate fell below the national average at 45.4 percent. That number represents a 10 percent increase since 2012.

Despite the increase in students’ involvement in politics through voting, Bosco said he believes the power of student voting is still untapped.

In K-State’s congressional district, 9.6 percent of eligible voters are college students. Within the entire state of Kansas, students make up 7.7 percent of the voting population.

“Numbers talk,” Bosco said.

Bosco said he is confident that his students at K-State could sway elections, since several elections in Kansas come down to just a few hundred votes, as was demonstrated in the recent Republican primary earlier this year in which Secretary of State Kris Kobach beat Gov. Jeff Colyer by a margin that has been referred to as “razor thin” by National Public Radio.

Hayley Spellman, chair of the governmental relations committee for Student Governing Association and senior in political science and communication studies, said students are being left out of the conversation.

“We were given the power to vote, use that power,” Spellman said. “Make your voice heard.”

Bosco said the “cold and calculated” system then turns and further disenfranchises students.

Both Bosco and Spellman emphasized the importance in becoming involved with critical issues that affect K-State students.

Without students, legislators pay more attention to other pressing issues. Voting brings issues that students care about to the front of the table, such as education and funding.

Bosco said if students want education funding to be a higher priority, they have to pay attention to the elected officials that come into office because they are directly tied to how much money comes out of students’ pockets.

In the meantime, students at K-State have opportunities to partake in political discussions.

Sept. 25 is National Voter Registration Day, and to celebrate, the student-run campaign K-State Votes is hosting a voter registration drive with tables set up all around campus.

K-State Votes is also working with Housing and Dining Services to create posters that feature a Snapchat code. Students can scan the code and be taken to a website to register to vote.

It is a simple form that will only take people five minutes to fill out, Spellman said.

Spellman said she believes these small but powerful steps can change the world.

If a student is unhappy with the government or is passionate about an issue, they have the ability to be a part of the solution, she said.

“K-State students care about one another, they open doors for one another as they enjoy one of the best undergraduate experiences of America,” Bosco said. “This is a campus that is vibrant, and as the dean of students I am suggesting that we take it one step further and vote.”