There have been massive pushes for people, particularly college students to get out and vote across the country and right here on our college campus.
Young adults (ages 18-29) made up about 23% of the voting eligible population in 2018, but voter turnout for this demographic has reached record lows in recent years.
It is nearly impossible to escape signage, SHIP Votes tabling and faculty and staff members encouraging students to register to vote at Shippensburg University.
Although voting is important, I think we are pushing the wrong idea to students, especially as a higher-education institution. College teaches students how to think, not what to think. The narrative should not be that students just need to go and vote, but that they should go and become informed voters heading to the polls.
All the surveys taken in the last few years point pretty convincingly to the cluelessness of the American electorate. Gallup reported in 2013 that only 35% of poll respondents were able to say who represented them in Congress. A survey by the Newseum Institute found that one-third of those questioned could not cite even one of the protections guaranteed by the First Amendment.
An overwhelming majority of Americans are unable to even identify major policy proposals of major national political candidates, nonetheless state or local officials. We are stuck on our news-headlines (which are often very misrepresentative) and our historical party affiliation when we go to the polls, if that.
But what if, instead of beating the drums for a bigger turnout, we made an honest effort to give students the factual knowledge they currently do not possess? What if we actually started teaching them how to be better-informed citizens?
Think about how much of a difference this would make for our democracy. Everyone has the right to vote and everyone who wants to be able to express that right should be able to, but we should all be heading to the polls at least knowing who is running and their major proposals and previous political accomplishments.
As an institution of higher education, SU should be working to educate students in a non-biased manner in regard to the political landscape, civics and government. Ultimately though, we the students of SU should use our “learned ability to critically analyze and think,” to investigate candidates, policy ideas and go to the polls informed.
Change does in fact start with us. We should begin the campaign for an informed electorate, not just an electorate that clicks a few random buttons each November. As the generation with the highest amount of completed college degrees per capita, we must make the push for informed voting.