College students are the least likely to vote in each election, general or otherwise. They find it difficult because“they couldn’t get off to vote, didn’t receive their ballot in time, missed the registration deadline, or had trouble finding or accessing their polling place” (Civic Nation). Universities rarely give students off to vote, including Temple University. Combining issues registering, not having time to, not understanding what each election is, and struggling to receive accurate information leads to a significant number of college students not voting.
College students often want to vote, but often get confused about voting registration deadlines, and the processes they need to complete before and during election day. In hopes of alleviating this some states, like PA, have started initiatives to educate young voters. For example, The Pennsylvania Department of State has a project, PA Youth Vote, which is for educating future voters on how to vote.
Additionally, it is important for young voters to understand what we vote for in each type of election. There are three different types of elections, general, primary, and special elections. General elections happen each year, and are for electing congresspeople, Senators, Representatives, governors, county, city officials, or judges. In the odd years, specifically in PA, it is for county/city officials, and judges. Primary elections are for political parties to select candidates for the general election. There are different forms of primaries, depending on the political party affiliation of the voter. Lastly, there are special elections that occur if an elected official can no longer serve their position.
I spoke to Meg Snead, former Secretary of Policy and Planning underneath Governor Tom Wolf. She stated that “young people are actually very interested in voting and care a lot about the issues and candidates they are voting for. The hard part is following through on actually voting because young people hold themselves to a higher information standard than adults that have been voting for years and our voting laws are very rigid.” In the past, people received their information from traditional media sources. In 2023, there is information coming from social media platforms, television, newspaper, and radio. It’s hard for many college students to find accurate information in order to think critically about who to vote for.. College students have homework, jobs, social lives, and clubs that take up their time, and taking hours to decide on who to vote for isn’t feasible. Additionally, there is a learning curve with voting, and students often aren’t taught how to vote or when to vote, which can cause them to not vote altogether.
Voting is a civic right and duty that every person should exercise. In the words of Meg Snead, Governor Tom Wolf’s former policy secretary, “I used to say policy is nothing more than thinking critically about things happening around you or in the world. We need to make it easier to vote and we need youth to know that democracy is sustained through participation. But we also need youth to hold adults accountable and that is done by showing up at the polls and casting a ballot.”
Every voice matters, and as college students, we are the future of this country, and by exercising our right to vote, we change the world.
To register to vote in Pennsylvania, click this link: https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/Pages/PollingPlaceInfo.aspx