Baylor students stress political involvement

A collection of political endorsement signs stand outside Brazos Meadows Baptist Church in Hewitt, an early voting poll for McLennan County registered voters. Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Kalyn Story | Staff Writer

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18- to 24-year-olds have the worst voter turnout of any demographic. The Census Bureau reported in 2014 that 42 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds were registered to vote, the lowest voter registration for that demographic in more than 40 years.

The Center for Information on Civic Learning and Engagement reported that only 26 percent of eligible millennial voters voted in the 2012 election and only 21.3 percent in the 2014 midterm elections.

The TCU360 published an article last month titled “Political involvement remains low at TCU.” In the article, they discuss the low voter turnout and political engagement at TCU and many campuses. They mention in the article that Baylor seems to have the opposite problem.

“It’s not that students don’t talk about the campaign, it’s that I can’t get them to stop talking about it,” political science professor Dave Bridge told the TCU 360. “Students have about has much interest in the day-to-day developments of the 2016 election as they do in the day-to-day developments of Big 12 football.”

Old River-Winfree junior Joel Polvado remains engaged in the political process by volunteering at early voting locations in McLennan County. While volunteering with early voting is required for one of his classes, Polvado said he believes it is important to be civically engaged.

“I take civic responsibility very seriously,” Polvado said. “This is just one way for me to give back in a small capacity and to take part in the democratic process.”

Polvado said he understands people being disgusted by political polarization and the candidates themselves, but he encourages students to realize that so many sacrifices have been made for people to have this ability to vote.

“It’s a really unique opportunity that we are presented with that people sometimes take for granted,” Polvado said. “Not everyone runs elections like we do. Regardless of whether you are voting for one of the two major-party candidates, it is our responsibility as citizens to express our voice whether we agree with them or not. It is only democratic for us to take part in the election in some capacity whether it be voting or volunteering at the polls. Whatever that may look like to you, as citizens we need to participate.”

Petaluma, Calif., junior Brittany Gamlen also believes student political involvement is important. She worked with Ted Cruz’s campaign earlier this election season and is currently working to re-elect Bill Flores to the House of Representatives.

“I find politics really fascinating,” Gamlen said. “It’s really important to be politically involved. We as students are the future and sometimes don’t realize that the policies that are happening now are going to affect our future. A lot of students tend to be kind of ignorant and don’t realize how this is affecting them.”

Gamlen stresses the importance of being informed on local elections as well as national elections.

“There has been a lot of focus on the presidential race, but sometimes local policies are the ones that affect us the most, and people often overlook that,” Gamlen said. “The down ballot is really important because local policies affect us individually. Some policies at the presidential level aren’t very applicable to our everyday lives, but local policies do.”

Gamlen is grateful to have the opportunity to be politically involved and said she hopes the number of student voters greatly increases this election.

“We are so lucky to live in a country that gives us a say in the political process,” Gamlen said. “We have more of a direct impact on policies than we realize. As an individual, you have a small voice, but we still have a voice.”