Rego: Students are unaware of what they’re voting for

Shay Rego

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

The 2018 midterm elections are coming up. Citizens will be voting on candidates as well as important propositions. Organizations like New Era Colorado encourage students on campus to register and vote. The only problem is that the majority of the student body has no real idea what is on the ballot for the general election or what they would be voting on.

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A good voter is an educated voter. Organizations should spend more time educating students on what’s at stake with this election and getting them personally invested with the propositions.

There’s a big gap in students’ understanding of what’s on the ballot. In a small sample size of people I spoke with, nine out of 10 students approached in the Colorado State University courtyard had no idea what is on the ballot when asked.

According to the Colorado Secretary of State website, Larimer County has 100,440 total active registered voters and 22,923 inactive registered voters. While these demographics may show an overwhelming amount of voters, it does not show how many of those voters have information on what they’re voting on.

Of the 100,440 registered voters, 36,221 are ages 18-25 which indicates many could be students. Unfortunately, a registered voter does not guarantee a vote.

College-aged students are historically not very active voters, as a study conducted by The United States Election Project analyzes the outcome of the last midterm elections to state only a staggering 16 percent of people aged 18-29 had voted.

Andrew Ogrysko, a junior botany major, expresses his feelings about the voting process in general.

“I don’t think I’ll ever vote. I really have no say.” Ogrysko said.

Ogrysko is one of many students who believe the people are too small to make radical change through voting. 

“No one is going to fix anything,” Ogrysko said. “And, if you think that, you’re crazy. No matter who you put in power, everyone is crooked.”

There is a lot more hype than previous years about registering to vote and participating in these elections. A new study recently conducted by the Public Religion Institute and The Atlantic found that only 35 percent of Americans aged 18-29 and certain they will vote on these midterm elections. In large, CSU students make up a very small fraction of that statistic. 

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In efforts to increase good voting habits, campus should offer information onsite to educate students. Kaili Schroeder, a sophomore in the human dimensions and natural resources department, is planning on voting in this year’s ballot.

“So far I know very little to none,” Schroeder said.

New Era’s approach to getting the student body to register may not be as effective on the voting process as they may believe. Charley Olena, the advocacy director of New Era, unfortunately became too busy at headquarters to give a statement regarding CSU student registration numbers for this year.

“More accessible information would be more beneficial because as somebody who feels really strongly about environmental issues and social issues change has to happen,” Schroeder said. “But there’s just so many people like me who don’t even know where to start with getting information.”

While New Era is a great campaign to get students involved in the idea of voting, they are missing a crucial point. On their website, New Era does have information available explaining the propositions on the ballot. This did not carry over to their booths in-person though.

New Era and others on campus should try more actively to have information readily available about the election. They should encourage students to be more inclined to vote rather than simply getting students registered.

A similar case study for Boulder shows the positive impacts of New Eras work on successfully getting young people to register to vote. Now it’s time to turn the attention to educating as well.

A new approach to educating could include more social media activity outlining major points on the ballot, a more friendly booth with informational posters and pamphlets or even some good old fashion Stump shouting.

Educating the students on the ballot may encourage voting numbers. There needs to be a greater opportunity for students to have an open dialogue on what they could be voting on, rather than ushering students to simply go vote. 

Shay Rego can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online at @shay_rego