Students and other organizations emphasized the importance of voting on National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 24.
The deadline to register to vote in Kentucky’s November election is Monday, Oct. 7.
Murray is located in Kentucky’s 1st Congressional District, and during the upcoming midterm election, Kentuckians will vote for governor and many other offices.
Drew Seib, interim chair and associate professor in the political science department, said the easiest way to get registered in Kentucky is to do it online.
Seib said students can register to vote in their hometowns or in Murray even if they live in the residential colleges, but it depends on where they want to make an impact.
“If you are frustrated by local politics, then changing your voter registration to your college town, such as Murray, makes sense,” Seib said. “It also makes it more convenient to vote on Election Day. However, many students plan to return home after they graduate and in those cases it may make more sense to keep their registration back home at their permanent address.”
Those who wish to stay registered in their hometown can still participate in elections with absentee ballots. Seib said the process for submitting absentee ballots varies from state to state.
“It is going to vary by state and Rock the Vote will have information on the process for each state,” Seib said. “In Kentucky, you have to request an absentee ballot from the county clerk’s office where you are registered. Kentucky requires that you have a reason for not being able to vote on Election Day in order to receive an absentee ballot. This process can be handled by mail or in person.”
Regardless of where you vote, Seib emphasized the importance of voting.
“If you don’t vote, politicians don’t listen,” Seib said. “Politicians pay closer attention to the wants of older age demographics than the college-age demographic because they know older people are more likely to vote. However, it’s important to remember that the needs of college students and older people vary substantially… These two groups have very different wants and policy needs, yet because older voters show up at the polls at such higher rates, the needs of the younger demographic tend to be ignored.”
During the 2019 primary election there were 3,421,799 registered voters but only 294,947 were between the ages of 17 and 24, according to voter data from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Despite the low numbers, turnout of young voters has actually increased across the nation.
“There are a few possible reasons here,” Seib said. “First, we have a unique president who people are reacting quite strongly to – both in support and in opposition. This is reflected in the data. Not only was the youth vote up in 2018, but voter turnout was up overall. Second, there is some speculation that the youth are becoming more active, awarev and involved in the political process, including voting.”
Madison Hillberry, co-president of College Democrats, said they are hosting voter registration drives in the Curris Center until the deadline approaches. She also emphaszied the importance of getting registered.
“It’s the number one way students can have a direct impact on those who are influencing their lives, anywhere from their individual rights to the amount of tuition they have to pay in order to attend school,” Hillberry said.
Abby Rock, president of College Republicans, said she thinks young voters are apathetic because students don’t feel like their voices matter.
“From my personal experiences, I have found people fail to vote because they think their vote doesn’t matter or they simply don’t understand the political process,” Rock said. “It’s sad that as a demographic we are perceived by public officials as a group not worth paying attention to. What reason do they have to respond to our problems when they can’t count on our vote come election time? The increasing voter turnout of young voters gives me hope that our age group is becoming less apathetic and will show up on Nov. 3 to show our public officials we are ready to be heard.”
Scott Thile, piano technician, helped host a voter registration drive with the Kentuckians for the Commonwealth on Sept. 25 on campus. He said he thinks it’s especially important to get young voters registered because voter turnout is so low during midterm elections.
“Voter turnout is often low especially in midterm elections like we have coming up for governor, but they have a huge impact on many of the issues concerning young people,” Thile said. “Change happens slowly. Sometimes it’s hard to vote when our choices are not what we would want them to be, but it is still important to vote for candidates and issues that are closest to what we want. It can be overwhelming to think of the challenges we face, but voting is one of the most tangible ways we can meet them.”
To make sure your voice is heard in the upcoming election, make sure you’re registered to vote before Oct. 7.