Baylor professors weigh in on student voting

Students register to vote at the NAACP campus-wide voter registration block party Sept. 12 on Fountain Mall. Photo credit: Timothy Hong

By Brooke Bentley | Reporter

As the presidential election closes in, many students still remain unsure of not only who to choose, but also how to choose. Constantly thrown an overwhelming amount of information about the important topics of today’s political world, students often have trouble sifting through the contents and finding a like-minded candidate.

Although the impact of the youth vote is often underestimated in America, it has greatly impacted several past presidential elections, including the 2008 election in which Barack Obama stabilized his victory by receiving 66 percent of the youth vote, as opposed to Mitt Romney’s 31 percent of youth support at the polls, according to a study by Pew Research Center.

Baylor professors, critical but frequently overlooked resources for political insight, advise students to first become educated on the process as well as to remember how pivotal the young vote can be.

Dr. Martin Medhurst, a distinguished professor of rhetoric and communication as well as a professor of political science, is a nationally recognized expert on presidential rhetoric, having written or edited 13 books on political rhetoric and contributed more than 100 published articles in scholarly journals.

“Students need to study the positions that the candidates have articulated,” Medhurst said. “They need to look at their platforms, and if you’re interested in a particular issue, find out what candidate stands for that issue and compare it to the rest of their beliefs. Then make a decision based on which candidate best represents the direction in which you think the country ought to go.”

Dr. Joseph Brown, an associate professor of political science, also urges students to remember how crucial their vote is during a close election such as this one.

“Students’ votes always matter, maybe not in the way they think about it, but if they cast a vote for any given candidate, that is an indication of how the public feels about that particular candidate even if that candidate doesn’t win at this particular time,” Brown said.

While presidential elections may dominate the news and students’ ideas on voting, Medhurst wants to remind students that local elections often impact student’s lives more than national elections.

“I think voting is important, not just in a presidential election year, but in every year where we will vote on members of the school board, city council or county officials,” Medhurst said. “Those elections, in many ways, affect our lives far more than the president of the United States does, so I would encourage people to come out in every opportunity to vote, not just in the presidential election year.”

While some students may be reluctant to vote because they aren’t pleased with either of the major party candidates for president, Medhurst argues that this is not an excuse to not participate in the election.

“Obviously, it’s going to be more important in the states that are battleground states, and I doubt that Texas is going to be a battleground state, but nonetheless, I think there are still lots of other people running on the ballot that it might actually be a close vote for,” Medhurst said. “Just because you can’t make up your mind about the top of the ticket doesn’t mean you can’t make up your mind about the others.”

For the upcoming presidential debates, Medhurst and Brown advise students to attend debate watch parties with friends and discuss their thoughts on the candidates’ performances.

The second presidential debate is at 8 p.m. Sunday, and the third presidential debate is at 8 p.m. Oct. 19.