Home Opinion OPINION: More needs to be done to secure the student vote

OPINION: More needs to be done to secure the student vote

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Maddie Kramer, a senior studying political science, argues that it is crucial that the student body votes and the university could make it easier for students to go to the polls if they canceled class on Election Day.

Please note that these views and opinions do not reflect those of The New Political.

Ohio U students are slowly trickling back to Athens, with more than 7,000 returning to campus on Sept. 28. Due to COVID-19, most of the university’s population was sent back to their hometown in March and asked not to return to Athens. 

The lack of student population in Athens poses two large problems: student voter turnout and students being correctly counted in the census. 

Census numbers affect the amount of government funds municipalities can receive and ultimately can affect seats in the House of Representatives.

In the looming 2020 election, a lack of student turnout can result in abysmal numbers for county and state elections.

Presidential election years usually see a rise in voter turnout compared to the midterms. Still, in the 2016 election, only 40% of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 cast a ballot. 

This is unfortunate for a number of reasons, namely the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but lost the electoral college. If more young people turned out to vote, these results may have been swayed just enough for the United States to have its first woman president. 

While it may seem the fate of our country is at stake with the presidential election, Athens and Southeast Ohio have important state elections as well. Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers and Republican State Rep. Jay Edwards are both up for re-election. 

Stivers has served in the seat for nine years and only sponsored a handful of bills — two of which were renaming post offices. Stivers also has a rating of 0% from the Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood and a 26% from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Edwards is known for fighting with constituents on social media and has accepted $5,000 of PAC money from First Energy, the group under fire following the Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder’s bribery case. Edwards also has a rating of 0% from Planned Parenthood and a 42% from Equality Ohio.  

Both Stivers and Edwards have Democrat challengers hoping to secure seats in November: Joel Newby, an Ohio U graduate and Columbus lawyer, and Katie O’Neill, also an Ohio U alumni and environmental law advocate

As both incumbents have secured their seats over several elections, it is obvious that to turn Southeast Ohio blue, the student vote is crucial. 

During a usual election year, student organizations would be camped outside Baker Center, College Green and campus dining halls to make sure students are registered to vote at their Athens address. 

In a COVID-19 world with less than 30% of students on campus, however, this is no longer the reality. Those who stayed home need to re-register with their home address, while those who moved off campus but are splitting their time between Athens and their hometown need to decide where to register. For Southeast Ohio races, this means much fewer student ballots cast in Athens.

Whether students vote in their hometown or in Athens, it is critical that students register and turn out to vote. 

The United States is at a major turning point due to the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, the national discussion surrounding civil rights and policing, climate change and natural disasters in California and the South. 

While the world may seem grim and absent of hope, there is one thing we can do: show up to the ballot box. There is so much at stake this election year, and this is why many are urging Ohio U to cancel classes on Election Day so students can vote.

A petition started circulating on Twitter on Sept. 20 urging the university to cancel classes on Election Day. While early voting is an option, employers and schools should make it as easy as possible for citizens to vote. Taking the day off of class would give students more available time to vote. As we are entering this election with a poll worker shortage, many fear they will be faced with long lines at the ballot box. 

Giving students Election Day off would boost numbers for eligible young voters. While they may not be voting in Athens, it is important to encourage people to vote wherever they are and take part in their civic duty.

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