REFLECTION: I helped register voters last week, this is what I learned

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Generation Z still has low voter turnout. (File photo | Collegian Media Group)

You might have noticed the numerous voter registration drives around campus last week hosted by Wildcats Vote and other student organizations.

I volunteered to help out with this nonpartisan voter registration effort for the first time, and boy was it interesting.

It’s no secret that young people are notoriously bad at turning out to vote on election days. Politicians count on it, our silence reduces their incentive to reach out to young voters. Though millennial voter turnout nearly doubled in the last midterm election, Generation Z participation came in at a pitiful 30 percent.

I’ve heard all these statistics before, but helping register young voters for the first time really put this all into perspective.

For one, there are many factors that require more effort for students to cast their ballots. Moving more often means they have to re-register, they might lack transportation to their polling place and those registered out-of-state must request advance ballots well before election deadlines.

What I didn’t anticipate was that it would be like pulling teeth to get students to even register.

While I had numerous constructive conversations with students, and the drive ultimately registered 100-130 students, the amount of resistance we encountered was astonishing.

Granted, many students were on their way to class and undoubtedly had a lot on their minds besides the upcoming local government election, but the number of students who ignored our unobtrusive greetings or just flat out said no and walked away was far greater than I ever anticipated from my fellow Wildcats.

Reasons people usually use to justify their choice not to vote range from not having enough time to not knowing enough about the candidates.

In the 21st century, the internet offers unprecedented widespread access to information. Vote411 is just one resource that allows you to easily compare candidates and inform yourself about the issues on your ballot, whether it’s a national or local election.

Taking the time to vote is time well spent. The people we elect to represent us have the power to determine so many things that immediately impact our lives. Particularly at the local level, taxes and university/scholarship funding are extremely important issues that shapes students’ lives.

The number of students indifferent or opposed to exercising their most basic civil right is deeply concerning.

In particular, the fact that so many young women take their right to vote, which women’s and civil rights activists fought so bitterly for just a century ago, for granted is beyond belief. It’s a battle that is still being fought to this day in America against gerrymandering and discriminatory voter identification legislation.

We are fortunate where we live that KSvotes.org makes it so quick and easy to register. Not everyone is so lucky.

As much as there is to be concerned about the security of our election process, it remains important to vote for candidates that prioritize the integrity of our elections. Moreover, we are lucky we even have elections, as so many places in the world still struggle to obtain free and fair elections, if they have a democratic process at all.

If you’ve cared enough to read this far, chances are you’re probably already registered to vote. But if you happen to not be, I implore you to head to KSvotes.org.

What have you got to lose? Everything.

Rebecca Vrbas is senior in journalism and mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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My name is Rebecca Vrbas. I’m the assistant culture editor at the Collegian and a junior in journalism and mass communications. My hobbies include obsessing over an ever-expanding pool of musicals and cats (not the musical). I love writing because of the infinite intricacy of language, as well as its power to cultivate a sense of community through sharing experiences.