By Jon Platt
According to a national report by the Current Population Survey, student voter participation is on the decline, but two Baylor professors see a future where students are both informed about and active in the political process.
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement found that in the 2012 election, college-aged students, ages 18-24, made up 8.5 percent of the electorate. This is down one percentage point from the election in 2010, according to the same report.
In addition, the Current Population Survey, a collection of reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, tracked a decline in youth voter turnout from 14.2 percent in 1972 to 7.6 percent in 1996.
Dr. Pat Flavin, assistant professor of political science, suggested these trends may reveal a lot more about our political system than one would think.
“[Elected officials] don’t really listen to people who don’t show up,” he said.
Flavin said he sees voting as a way for one’s voice to be heard. Groups of people who vote more often are more likely to see the issues they care about addressed.
He said this is a reason why college students are “towards the bottom” of our national totem pole.
“Voting is habitual,” he said. “In the same way that many of us have bad habits, we could say, in contrast, that voting is a good habit.”
Flavin encouraged students stay up-to-date on issues that interest them and issues on the line for each election.
Voting can be “an incentive to stay informed,” he said.
Dr. Brenda Norton, visiting lecturer for the political science department, said she shared in this opinion.
“Voting is just one aspect,” she said. “Part of it is paying attention to the news. You’re an adult now.”
Norton said students should watch for issues that catch their eye and then hook up with a special interest group for the topic.
Both professors said students should try to use a wide and balanced collection of sources.
Specifically, for education on the upcoming midterm elections in November, Norton advised students visit MTV’s election coverage website, which includes links to Rock the Vote, The Annenberg Public Policy Center’s Fact Check, the New Voters Project, Public Agenda, Project Vote Smart and Vote Latino. According to MTV’s website, all of these organization are nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations aimed at freely providing impartial information to the public.
Other resources available are through VoteTexas.gov and the Texas Secretary of State’s website.
“Authenticate your information,” Flavin said.
He said he would advise that students stay away from reading blogs because the specific medium is generally designed to be biased and opinionated.
Norton said she wants to see active student participation in politics. For this to happen, she said, students need to just follow something.