By SALVADOR GUTIÉRREZ, Staff Reporter |
According to a report prepared by The National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE), about 30 percent of AC students enrolled at the time of the 2016 election, actually went to the polls. In contrast, nearly 50 percent of the U.S. college and university students that the NSLVE studied voted in 2016, which is the most recent data currently available.
Numerous factors impact low-voter turnout among AC students, former Amarillo mayor Debra McCartt said the problem concerns her. “So many people are not voting or they don’t feel represented or they don’t think the vote will count.”
On the other hand, current candidate for Amarillo’s City Council Place 1, Hayden Pedigo, said he believes that is very easy for younger generations to get informed about local issues. “I agree the current system is serving older, wealthier residents and not younger people who want to stay in Amarillo,” said the 24-year-old candidate.
“I think having more younger candidates running would be a good start for this city to progress and start hearing their concerns,” Pedigo added.
McCartt said that getting younger people to go to the polls has always been a problem. “I think it has to do with how we are raised. If families don’t break that cycle of not voting, we are going to be in a lot of trouble especially on a local level. Those who are elected are the ones who are going to be making decisions for your life.”
Political polarization is another factor that plays a role in students’ low voter-turnout, according to Aaron Faver, social sciences instructor and 101 Reasons coordinator. In the past few years, polarization in politics has led students to get emotional and develop “a sense of helplessness,” he said.
Josephine Rodriguez, a criminal justice major, said she agrees that polarization keeps students from getting involved in politics and local elections. “The media only focuses on two political parties, plus we only get a one-sided, altered version of the reality,” Rodriguez said.
Regardless of this issue, Faver said he wants to encourage students to participate in local elections. “I want to help them understand they do matter and realize that if they want to change things, they can,” he said.
Pedigo also said he wants more students to go to the polls in upcoming elections. “I cannot stress enough how important it is for millennials, especially in Amarillo, to vote in local elections,” he said. “If we want Amarillo to be a progressive, forward-thinking town, we have to make our voices heard.”
Pedigo noted that students often are more focused on national rather than local politics and fail to realize the impact of decisions made in and about their own communities. “Local politics may have more of an effect on their day to day life,” Pedigo said.
Events such as 101 Reasons Week that encourage people to vote can be part of the solution, according to McCartt. “Sometimes it’s just asking. It just takes someone to single you out and ask.” Altogether, Faver said he wants students to realize, “If you don’t like something, you can change it by voting.”
This is one of the stories from The Ranger’s special edition for 101 Reasons Week. During the week of Mar. 25-29, the college held a variety of activities dedicated to boasting social awareness and civic engagement in students.