KATIE GOODRICH | EDITOR IN CHIEF | KMGOODRI@BUTLER.EDU
The 2016 election is less than five weeks away.
Indiana’s voter registration deadline is in six days.
But Elizabeth Vasilgambros, founder and president of the nonpartisan group BU Political, said there is more than enough time to have your voice be heard.
“I know people on this campus who pull all-nighters or write a paper in two hours,” she said. “[Registering to vote] takes maybe five minutes. It’s not hard to do.”
These five minutes also have an impact on things happening far into the future.
Michael Thomas, president of the nonpartisan club Young Americans for Liberty, said he thinks about how much the outcome of this election will influence the rest of college students’ lives, due to the myriad of issues being discussed.
“It’s better to address them now than when we’re 40 or 50,” he said. “By then, we’re behind. Being informed is so vital for young people.”
Vasilgambros agreed citing the economy as the largest issue.
“We are the ones who are entering the job market,” she said. “In the next four years, that is going to be us. People who didn’t vote will say they wish they did.”
Both BU Political and Young Americans for Liberty are not affiliated with any political party. The groups aim to inform young voters and engage them in the political process.
“No matter what way you’re voting, do it and get your voice out there,” Thomas said. “I think it’s a very important thing for us as students to do.”
Vasilgambros said her goal for BU Political is to make politics more prevalent on campus.
“We want to push out facts, not opinions,” she said. “We take politics and make it more accessible to people who aren’t into politics or who think they can’t get involved. We just want to make it less scary.”
In just over a month, the American public will hire a new president, 12 governors, 34 senators, 435 representatives and countless local and state government officials.
“Every election contest on the ballot matters – not just the one at the top of the ballot for president,” senior Marisa Heiling said.
The political science and biology double major spent last semester in Washington D.C. with Butler’s program. She worked at the Environmental Protection Agency and left with a newfound respect for local government officials.
“Those are the people who decide what taxes you pay and what that money goes to,” Heiling said. “The school board is a huge influence on the community. Some councils even pick the mayor, so they are just as important as the presidential candidates.”
Heiling is registered in her hometown in Minnesota, so she can still vote in the local elections there.
This meant she had to request an absentee ballot, which ended up being more of a nuisance than she anticipated.
“Apparently, I did it wrong,” she said. “I got a call from the county officials who said my form was blank. She just asked me all the necessary questions, and I was set.”
Even though it was not as simple as it should have been, Heiling said it will always be worth it.
“Really, the value of voting is worth the few minutes that is takes,” she said. “It is a civic duty of an American citizen and everyone should vote.”
Less than half of all college students voted in the presidential election, according to Tufts University data. Usually, presidential elections have a higher voter turnout due to the publicity surrounding the candidates.
If Butler lines up with these averages, about 2,500 students will not vote in this election.
Nationally, there are more than 20 million college students, according to National Center for Education Statistics data. That is equivalent to 5 percent of all eligible voters.
Millennials are quickly surpassing older generations as the largest demographic, according to Pew Research Center data. Baby Boomers and the generations before them have alway dominated the polls, due to the sheer number and high voter turnout.
Meanwhile, only 17 percent of all people age from 18 to 24 cast a ballot, according to a Campus Vote Project report.
This could have many causes. For example, the initial barriers of registering to vote and either requesting an absentee ballot or participating in early voting could dissuade students.
However, the website vote.org has information about each state’s voter registration deadlines and early voting procedures. You can also check if you are registered to vote and request an absentee ballot.
“It’s all online now, which makes it much easier,” Heiling said. “It’s all in one place for us to find, so there should be no excuse.”
Last year, Butler’s Student Government Association partnered with TurboVote, a website that sends email or texts to remind you about upcoming elections.
Vasilgambros said she is lucky to be on a campus like Butler’s.
“Here SGA gets it and is doing things to help,” she said. “Plus, we have lots of resources that other schools lack, so it definitely takes a weight off.”
She even said she would take care of things for other students.
“If you don’t want to print it off or pay 59 cents for the stamp, contact me and I will make sure it happens,” she said. “That is how important this is.”
Thomas also said students can get discouraged or think their vote does not count.
“I sometimes myself think politics is dumb and that we shouldn’t pay attention,” he said. “But politics affects everyone. You might not think about it, but politics are everywhere around you whether you’re invested or not.”
Thomas and Vasilgambros both said staying informed is the most important thing to do before casting your vote, especially in an election as filled with controversy as this one.
Heiling said the polarization can be off-putting to new voters.
“This election is getting a lot of hype because of the two major candidates,” she said. “They both are very present in the media. They both have very strong opinions that come with them on both sides.”
Thomas said he would recommend looking at the platforms, instead of just the candidates themselves.
“I think people are turned off by who they are,” he said. “I am sometimes. Look at the problems that are important to you and what solutions each candidate offers, not the people behind them.”
Vasilgambros said the worst thing about the election is the amount of people who are uninformed or misinformed.
“I made a cheat sheet on the BU Political website of everything anyone could need,” she said. “That is what I tell people to look at. It has third party candidates, issue tests and fact checking. That is what people need to read, not all the drama.”
She also said students need to step up and really show up and let their voices be heard.
“Not a lot of other countries let people vote on who is going to run the country like we do,” Vasilgambros said. “We need to take advantage of something that we are really lucky to have.”
How to Get Involved:
Go to vote.org to learn about state registration dates, early voting, check your voter status and request an absentee ballot.
Go to turbovote.org to sign up for election reminders and request an absentee ballot.
Visit SGA’s voter registration table at Starbucks on Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.