The absent student vote

Millennials are notorious for being the most outspoken and passionate demographic in America. Their fervor could easily lead to monumental political change, yet when it is time to cast a vote the polls remain empty.

It is not laziness or even political apathy keeping students away from the ballot box but rather a lack of an informed public.

Florida’s primary was Tuesday and voters were deciding on issues like who should be the nominees for the U.S. Senate, whether or not those using solar energy should receive a tax break and who should be elected for the U.S. House.

Representation in local and state governments have a massive effect on students’ lives yet the passion reserved for presidential candidates never seems to be shared for candidates on a smaller scale.

Unfortunately, most students fail to realize the majority of the issues they care so deeply about like college tuition and job creation in the community are all dependent on state or local legislatures.

Millennials came out in droves in 2008 to vote for Barack Obama because he promised change. However, they never took the time to vote for the other branches of government and then were frustrated when his grand plans were blocked at every turn.

“I think voting is very accessible for students but the problem is there is a lot of lack of knowledge about how easy it is to change your registration from one location to another,” said Susan MacManus, a USF professor of political science and political analyst.

USF falls under Precinct 353 and has a total of 618 registered voters. Out of those, only 20 cast a ballot on Tuesday, according to the Supervisor of Elections (SOE) website.

Obviously the majority of those who did vote in the primary either voted early or voted by mail. But participation as a whole is infamous for being low. In the 2012 primary, only 15.86 percent of registered voters cast a ballot, according to the SOE.

Millennials in particular, however, tend to be nearly absent in local and state elections. The reason? Students simply don’t know how to vote.

“College students tend to be very busy and if they haven’t studied election law they may not understand how easy it is to vote by mail or to change where you vote,” said MacManus. “That of course dampens turnout when people are unaware.”

Her recommendation? Contact the SOE and have your registration moved to where you live, go to the polls during early voting or request to vote by mail, which will allow you to comb over each issue thoroughly before placing your vote.

The dismal attendance at Tuesday’s polls should encourage students to step up and get active politically. Nothing can impact lives the way politics can.

Electing officials who share your values is crucial in shaping an America you can be proud to live in. Voting on amendments ensures causes you care about are supported.

Some students forgo the polls because they feel they are not informed enough on the issues on the ballot. Pi Sigma Alpha, the national student honor society, Student Government and the Honors College have plans to ensure no one has that excuse come November 8.

They plan to hold a mock election in October that will be open to anyone on campus. Any questions students have on amendments, offices or anything regarding the upcoming election will be explained in detail so students will be informed walking into the polling booth the next month, according to MacManus.

Millennials are now America’s largest generation and could easily impact the results of every election, whether local, state or national if they would just show up and vote. Passion is useless if there is no follow through.

Updating your voter registration takes five minutes and can determine if an election will take us forward or will set us back. After all, Florida is a swing state for a reason. Here, every vote truly makes a difference.