Nearly 100 students stopped by the “Floats for Votes” stand outside Gaiser Student Center to sign their names and get free root-beer floats, but only two registered to vote. ASCC hosted the event on Nov. 3, the last day to vote in Clark County local elections.
Colleges play a massive role in educating young voters and providing opportunities for students to get involved in their community. ASCC plays its part to raise awareness for elections each year by hosting events and handing out registration forms and pamphlets.
“Today is a national voting day, so we want to make sure students are putting in their opinion,” said Courtney Braddock, ASCC activities director. “Clark just wants them to be civically involved in their community and this is a good way to start.”
Braddock said the ASCC is trying to spread information in hopes to spark students’ interest. “People aren’t always going to necessarily be open to reach out on their own. I know politics can be tough but people have been very supportive.”
“Historically, younger people are much less likely to vote than older people,” said Michael Ceriello, a political science professor at Clark. “A big piece of it is lack of knowledge or life experience.”
Ceriello said many students in his American government class are Running Start students. In many instances, it’s the first class they’ve taken that discusses politics and government issues.
He said they often take the class to fill credits and aren’t actually interested in politics. So he asks them, “Do you care about parking? Do you care how much tuition you are paying? Do you care if there’s a Running Start program?”
Anyone who has a job, goes to school or pays taxes is affected. “Local and state offices affect the lives of students and people in the community just as much, if not more, than the national offices,” said Greg Kimsey, Clark County auditor.
Although that may be true, advertisement for presidential elections is overall more consistent and constant than local election advertisement, and therefore the voter turnout is higher.
Over 193,000 Clark County residents voted in the 2012 presidential election; about 80 percent of registered voters. The unofficial count for this year’s local election is 85,000 ballots; 33 percent of approximately 251,500 total registered voters.
As of November, there are 21,356 registered voters ages 18-25, according to the registered voters demographic. Nearly 9,000 students enrolled at Clark are 18 or older and eligible to vote.
Ceriello believes that with the young voter turnout always being so low, it is important for schools, teachers and parents to encourage students to become involved in the community and vote.
“The more young people turn out to vote, the more candidates will pay attention to them,” Ceriello said.
He suggests the best way for Clark to help increase young voter turnout registration drives. Ceriello and Kimsey agree that voting is habit forming: Someone that has registered or has voted in the past is more likely to vote.
Ceriello also mentioned student club involvement, as well as encouragement and insight from teachers and fellow students.
“Floats for Votes was a great idea but it could have been about a month earlier so people interested had a little more time to vote and time to register if they hadn’t,” Ceriello said.
Braddock said the ASCC only hosted one event for local elections due to lack of time, since the staff started training at the beginning of the quarter. “The main goal wasn’t getting students to register, rather just making sure people know that there are actual election days and deadlines to mail in their ballots,” she said.
Braddock added that the ASCC has more time to plan activities for the upcoming presidential election. She hopes for more civic engagement outreach across all of campus for the local elections next year.
Ceriello suggested that ASCC may be able to contact candidates and host a debate, like Clark has done in the past. “All it takes is interested students,” Ceriello said.
Students who want to get involved in the community or with the college should reach out to their teachers or the ASCC for more information. Voting registration forms are located around campus and on the Washington Secretary of State website.