With the presidential election quickly approaching, college students across the country are engaging with the democratic process and deciding how they will vote -- in person or absentee. At Clemson University, the Clemson Votes campaign is working to help students register to vote and educate students about the voting process, including new rules about absentee voting during the pandemic.
Why should college students care about voting? “Elected officials and their staffers pay attention to the demographics of the electorate. If they see that certain demographics are voting at higher rates, they pay more attention to the issues of those constituents,” said Dr. Bridget Trogden, Associate Dean for Engagement and General Education in Undergraduate Studies and one of two lead organizers for Clemson Votes.
Anjali, a senior psychology major, told The Tiger why she feels everyone should vote in November. “As college students, we’re the ones who are going to be most impacted by the outcome of this election”, she said. “We’re about to enter the workforce, establish our lives and start families. It is our future that is on the line and we need to use our voice.”
Kate Radford, Associate Director for Leadership Education and Development in the division of Student Affairs and the other lead organizer for Clemson Votes, explained the history of voting among college students. “[C]ollege students have not always been the most active in the election process. While we saw a national rise in college student voting in 2016, college students still vote at lower rates than older citizens in our country.”
According to a report by the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), 58.1% of Clemson students voted in the 2016 presidential election, up 10.4% from the previous presidential election in 2012. Trogden and Radford hope to increase this rate even further in the upcoming election.
“Clemson Votes is striving to increase voter turnout,” said Katie Mann, an intern at the Peace Center for Professional Communication who works on the Clemson Votes campaign. “We work toward educating students on their right to vote, how to register, and why voter participation is so important.”
Due to the pandemic, all voters now have the ability to request an absentee ballot under the State of Emergency reason. The state of South Carolina voting rules indicate that absentee ballots should be received four days prior to election day or one day prior if the individual is already a registered voter. Constituents should check for different rules depending on the state they will vote in.
Additionally, college students have the option to vote in their home state or the state in which they attend college. They cannot be registered to vote in two states, however. More details on how to vote in college can be found here. To see what’s on your ballot, check your voter registration, find your polling place and more, see vote.org or vote411.org.
The Tiger asked Clemson students why it is important for college students to vote in the upcoming election. Several students emphasized that the college student demographic will be particularly affected by the outcome of the election.
“Our demographic is the next to feel the repercussions of everything that has happened in the last term as well as the upcoming term,” Michele, a junior financial management major, said. “Our children and the generation that follows us depends on the decision we make.”
Several other students spoke about the importance of voting among the younger generation.
“College students are the most recent generation of voters. We are a group that provides a unique perspective that may not have been present in previous elections,” said Levi, a junior mechanical engineering major.
Olivia, a freshman business major, highlighted the role voting plays in the framework of our country. “[Voting] is part of the foundation America was founded on and it is important for everyone to have a voice in our democracy, especially today.”
Anna, a senior biology major, commented on one of the top issues for young voters. “The outcome of the upcoming election is crucial for our greater community, our country, and may determine if we can prevent irreversible damage due to climate change,” she said.
Michael, a recent Clemson graduate, put things into perspective. “Even if [the election] doesn’t immediately impact you, it definitely impacts a lot of others around you.”
To stay updated with the campaign, you can follow Clemson Votes on Instagram at @clemsonvotes.