Democratic process needs student voters

Ethan Uslabar, Opinion Writer

Ballots Collected: 23.

That’s what the screen of the polling machine said when I cast my vote in the Wisconsin Supreme Court primary late in the afternoon last Tuesday.

Really? Only 23 ballots collected in the nine hours that the polling station at Albee Hall had been open? I thought there certainly must be something wrong with that number — and I’ve come to the conclusion that there is. You may ask: what is wrong with it?

Well, for starters, it’s low. Out of the approximate 13,900 student who attend school here at UW Oshkosh, by the time I shuffled into Albee Hall, only 0.16 percent of student body had participated in the vote. Sure, Oshkosh has a significant amount of students who commute or live off campus who may have cast a ballot elsewhere, and of course, I’m sure that more people may have voted after I did, yet it baffled me to see such an unenthusiastic turnout.

This led me to a series of questions. Was there simply not enough information available to draw people in to vote? Did the majority of students not know just how easy it was to cast a vote? Did they not know where they could vote? Was the ice keeping people from getting out and voting? Was the weather being controlled by the Republican majority to stifle any Democratic uprising as midterm elections loom on the political horizon? Just kidding, but really — were students simply unaware of the primary election taking place, or did they just not care?
That last question stuck with me the most because I felt that it carried a significant amount of weight. Wouldn’t college students be among those who care the most about politics? Wouldn’t more students want to participate in making decisions that will directly impact them in the future?

Regardless of students’ political stances, it’s important for everyone to be involved with the political process. In the 2016 presidential election, voter turnout among college students had risen significantly to nearly 50 percent. There’s not as much media coverage of these elections as the national elections, which certainly plays a role in how large the turnout is, but it’s a citizen’s duty to be aware of the elections that are taking place and of how these elections impact them.

Some students may not want to take the time to register to vote, but with a voter registration information sheet available on TitanWeb, the process is very easy. It doesn’t take much time either; not to mention the impact that it can have is well worth the minimal investment of time. Out-of-state students are eligible to vote in the State Supreme Court elections as well.

I hope for future elections more student-run organizations such as College Republicans, Democrats and Socialist groups can promote elections and effectively distribute information to make polling more accessible. Many students here at Oshkosh, hopefully all of us, will one day be successful professionals. We will pay taxes, obey laws and pay for services.

How we go about those things and whether we are happy about doing them may be a direct result of our political decisions now while we are in college. For this reason, it’s that essential college students get involved with all election processes regardless of scale as they all influence our lives.

Some students may think to themselves, as many Americans may when it comes to a polling day, “I’m just one person, what difference can my single vote make?” Well, each vote counts, just as a single snowflake can bend the entire branch.