By Tori Zackery
Entirely East Lansing
With the Iowa caucuses kicking off the presidential primaries, East Lansing voters have little more than a month before they are able to cast their ballots.
On March 8, five polling locations will be available for registered voters on Michigan State University’s campus. If the primary election mirrors the last election held in East Lansing however, convenience will be a minor factor in student voter participation.
Out of the 2,600 students who were registered to vote in East Lansing, only 33 participated in the Nov. 3 City Council election. This number was a small improvement from the 2013 election, where only 25 students came out to vote. While local elections tend to garner less support than national, voter apathy among students is a nationwide trend.
“Apathy is the detriment of Democracy,” said MSU political theory and constitutional democracy sophomore Della Uekert. “The only way the people have power to change things in our political system where money and status influence so much of our politics is to vote.”
Many attribute the lack of political participation to a consensus of disenfranchisement among college students. Computer engineering junior Reynaldo Montalvo said he felt his vote would not make a difference in national politics.
“I never had any interest because I don’t really see the point,” said Montalvo. “I don’t know enough to make informed decisions and even if I did, I have never felt like my single vote means much anyway.”
Contrary to the belief that voices will go unheard, millennials, those born between 1982 and the early 2000s, have an unprecedented opportunity to make a difference in the 2016 presidential race. Statistically, millennials have officially surpassed the baby boomer generation in the electorate, meaning there are more millennial voters than ever before. For Uekert, who plans on voting on March 8, the opportunity gives millennials a large responsibility.
“There are so many issues that are going to affect millennials in the next four years,” said Uekert. “Higher education costs are outrageous, Social Security will be bankrupt by the time our generation is ready to retire, the planet is warming at a drastic rate, our natural resources are disappearing. Our generation faces so many potential problems for the rest of our lives here not only in the United States, but on Earth. It is imperative that millennials understand the effect they can have to influence our future.”
In order to vote in the primaries, voters must register by Feb. 8. Several programs and organizations on campus offer assistance with the process. MSU YouVote, a non-partisan voting initiative, hosts registration drives and also provides online registration links on their website. Program advisor K.C. Keyton stressed that after registering, students must take advantage of the precincts available right on campus.
“I’d like to communicate to students that the precincts could go away,” said Keyton. “Even if it’s just to scare them and build a sense of urgency. We hear from around the country that we’re great because we have on-campus polling locations. A lot of colleges have to go off campus and we have locations where students live in residence halls. They tell us how lucky our students are, but I don’t think they understand that.”
While Keyton added that he believed MSU has a great relationship with the East Lansing city clerk and that the campus precincts would most likely remain on campus, students should still find urgency in their opportunity to register and vote. On March 8, when voters are given a voice on who runs for the next presidency, students should speak up.