By Amanda Weber and Felicia Smolen
Assistant News Editor and Griffin Reporter
With the upcoming presidential, congressional, and local elections rapidly approaching, people are thinking heavily about one thing necessary to democracy: voting. However, one cannot have their voice heard if they are not yet registered to vote. It does not matter who one supports this November; those candidates will have no chance of getting into office without voter support. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the voter turnout for the 2012 election for people of ages 18-29 fell by nearly two million from the previous election in 2008. This decline in the involvement of young adults has many concerned about voters’ turnout for the upcoming election. One such concerned group is the Phi Alpha Theta (History Honors Society) and its President, Senator Robert Lepertine, ‘17. In the name of democracy, Phi Alpha Theta is holding a Voter’s Registration Drive that will serve to get people registered to vote before November.
“Not everyone knows how to register to vote or has even thought to do it,” said Lepertine. “This event is for those who want to vote but can’t find the time or have forgotten to register.”
Although the aforementioned statistics on voter turnout do not indicate that the interest of young people in politics is increasing, millennials’ noticeable presence on social media and their outspoken opinions regarding each candidate certainly show that a passion exists. However, this does not necessarily mean that everyone with a public opinion is registered to vote. While young people are able to form educated and articulate arguments for their particular candidate, a certain number remain legally unable to step into the voting booth on Election Day.
“Young people have a habit of not voting,” said Lepertine, “and as a result, many are turned off by a government that does not reflect their values, which makes them want to vote less, and so on.”
This vicious cycle has been reflected by voting percentages throughout recent elections. The U.S. Census Bureau found that among individuals aged 18-29 who were eligible to vote, only 15.4 percent actually turned out and cast a vote for the 2012 Presidential Election. Despite these numbers, the “millennial” generation seems to feel invigorated and desire change. Social media allows people to express their personal and political beliefs on a larger scale than ever before. Certainly young people have not shied away from expression in regards to the 2016 election between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, Republican candidate Donald Trump, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Phi Alpha Theta has taken notice of this renewed interest in politics and wants to build on it.
“I want to make sure that the Canisius student body has a greater opportunity to have its voice heard,” said Lepertine. “To do this, we’re equipping first-time voters with what they’ll need to do so. Registering to vote only takes a few minutes, and we’re providing everything, from paperwork to postage.”
A great benefit that most people, young and old, do not think of when registering to vote is that they also have the option to sign up to be an organ donor. This option is an extra bonus that could potentially interest those who do not want to involve themselves too much with politics.
Although this event is mainly targeting the student body, Canisius faculty and staff are also welcome to participate. The main goal that Phi Alpha Theta wants to address with the Voter Registration Drive is utilizing the passion that young voters and the Canisius student body have regarding the upcoming Presidential election. They want to buck the historical trend which shows that young people, despite enthusiasm, do not show up on Election Day and vote. The Voter Registration Drive hopes to make the voting process seamless and easy. Voting may not be the the only important thing when it comes to creating change–people can protest, write their local politician, boycott–but it is an important and viable step in influencing government and it starts with registering.
“My goal is to make sure that this new political consciousness many have doesn’t just go away after this election,” said Lepertine. “I love the passion people suddenly have and how many people who would normally feel disaffected, feel empowered.”
Rob Lepertine is registered to vote and hopes all students are or will be, too. No matter a person’s political stance, voting is a central part of this country’s political and democratic system. It matters. It may seem impossible for one vote to affect something as large as the Presidential Election, but there are congressional and local elections as well, and any Canisius student’s vote could make the difference of who governs this community for years to come.