Midterm elections are around the corner, and college-age students as a demographic are infamous for poor voter turnout. Opportunities to get registered are still available, though; on Oct. 20 and 21, the political science honor society, Pi Sigma Alpha (PSA), is tabling in the Harre Union Atrium with voting resources for their “Voter Engagement Extravaganza.”
Jennifer Hora, Professor of Political Science and International Relations and the PSA Advisor, urges more students to strongly consider their political contribution to society and take their voting power by the reins with the PSA and Student Life voting resources at their fingertips.
“In places like Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, [people] can still register to vote. You go on our computer [at the tabling event Oct. 20 and 21], and you register to vote…you request an absentee ballot…the idea is we’re all so busy that it’s really easy to say ‘when I get back to my dorm room, when I get back to the apartment, then I’m going to request my absentee ballot,’” Hora said. “And then the next day comes, and you still haven’t done it. And so we’re trying to give you a reward for taking that five minutes and doing it right now.”
The tabling event was designed in order to make the voting process easy for students, ‘voting’ and ‘easy’ not typically being associated with each other.
“Both Student Life and the political science department have done civic engagement efforts historically, for a really long time,” Hora said. “I think both of us are sort of trying to meet students where they’re at, and we are thrilled that [Student Life] built a resource and we just want to help to work to bring more students toward that.”
PSA hopes to see lots of students join them in their efforts to spread awareness about voting and hopes candy may be a way to draw them in.
“We want people to stop by,” Hora said. “We are trying to incentivize that.”
Hora also talks about the high-stakes of this particular election with midterms coming up, and how PSA recognizes the importance of tabling at this point in time.
“Definitely with the general election coming up on Nov. 8, and it being a midterm election, and having gotten through at least some of the COVID stuff, there’s a lot of excitement on campus,” Hora said. “Historically these organizations have done something [for elections,] and the [political] honor society was looking for something to do.”
PSA also wants to give a nod to Student Life, too, for designing a website that is so easily navigable through the initiative Beacons Cast Ballots (see Issue 4 “Beacons Cast Ballots advocates for voting transparency for students”). PSA sees Student Life’s voter resources website, found at valpo.edu/student-life/beacons-cast-ballots as a positive step towards helping increase college-aged voter turnout.
“Luckily the Student Life side has done some great stuff, they have put [voting] resources all on one page; they’ve had, in particular, in September, they had two days where they helped [students] register to vote. The [political science] honor society, they felt the need to be really visible and really hands-on,” Hora said.
“The website that Student Life…created is excellent,” Hora said. “It really is, like there are so many links to information, in particular VOTE 411—they direct you to that.”
This tabling event to be run by PSA was also prompted as a result of outreach from students looking to understand the voting process specifically in regards to this election.
“Other students in classes, students in our departmental picnics were contacting us and asking [about voting], and so the Political Science Honor Society just really felt the need to do something,” Hora said. “There are already efforts going on on-campus…There are major efforts going on on the Student Life side, and the academic honor society side wanted to add to that too.”
Hora herself also recognizes the trend of college-aged students not knowing or just not being very familiar with how to vote, and she hopes PSA tabling will help with this common struggle.
“As a political science professor, people ask me for help all the time…students, over the years, when their roommate knows they’re a political science major, when their sorority sister or fraternity brother finds out that they’re a [political science] major, they naturally go to them. And so, [with this event,] we will just have a bunch of friendly faces in the Union [Atrium] making it acceptable to [say] like ‘hey, let’s do this now, don’t put this off,’” Hora said. “We’re trying to just keep that momentum going.”
College-aged students, as aforementioned, are notoriously well known to not vote as much as older generations.
“Historically, voter turnout goes up with age. Additionally, people who are married and own homes are much more likely to vote, and that sounds silly, but it’s truth—the research, over and over, until you get to the age of where you are over 80 and in assisted living, the older you are, if you are married and if you own a home, all make your participation in civic life go up,” Hora said. “So, we have a dynamic, 18-to-24 year-olds, where they are the opposite end of the 80-year-olds, almost none are married [and] almost none own homes.”
Although this data makes sense, PSA sees this fact as a red flag, and hopes to debunk misconceptions that voting is a long and hard process and help as much as they can.
“We also know [that] the more mobile people are, the more difficult it is to maintain voter registration and know what the process is, and so there’s reasons that students need help,” Hora said. “Those of us who dedicate our life to studying government, we have those resources and we want you to have them, too.”