By Rachel Gobep
Sixty-one percent of Youngstown State University students voted in the 2016 presidential election, according to a study conducted by the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement in August 2017. This is up from 57.9 percent in the 2012 presidential election.
The study found that 82.6 percent of YSU students were registered to vote in 2016, with the voting rate of registered students at 73.8 percent.
The voting rate for all institutions in 2016 was 50.4 percent with a high of 81.4 percent and a low of 13.1 percent.
The results of this report reflect the percentage of YSU students who were eligible to vote and actually voted in the 2012 and 2016 elections.
Students of older age ranges also voted at a higher percentage than younger students.
Men and women voted in the 2016 election at similar rates of about 70 percent.
The study also broke down voter rates by race and ethnicity. Asian students voted at 42.4 percent, African-American students at 52.5 percent, Hispanic students at 55.6 percent, white students at 62.1 percent and students of two or more races at 49 percent.
Additionally, student data was categorized by field of study at YSU. Students majoring philosophy and religious studies voted at the highest rate of 71 percent, while students majoring in parks, recreation, leisure and fitness studies had the lowest voter participation rate at 48.3 percent.
Members in and out of the YSU community are urging students to vote in the upcoming midterm elections in November.
Jerry Springer, former mayor of Cincinnati and well-known television personality, visited YSU on Sept. 27 to campaign for the Ohio Democratic Party in the gubernatorial race.
Springer also to discussed voter registration among college students and encouraged them to become politically involved.
“One, think of the country, and two, think of self-preservation. You’ve got to get out there and vote, or don’t be standing up in the seventh-inning stretch and singing ‘God Bless America,’” Springer said.
“Patriotism is making a commitment to having this country fulfill its dream and that means at least getting out and voting,” he added.
Ernie Barkett, president of the Student Government Association (SGA), said he believes most college-aged people do not vote because it doesn’t seem like their vote matters.
“We’re one of millions of people that are voting in all these elections. It has the appearance, at the surface, that whatever I say doesn’t go,” he said.
According to data estimates released by the United States Census Bureau in June 2015, millennials born between 1982 and 2000 represent one quarter of the nation’s population at 83.1 million.
The generation’s size exceeds the 75.4 million baby boomers.
Barkett said it’s important to show students that if they vote it matters and if all millennials vote, it can create change.
“It doesn’t matter if baby boomers don’t agree with us. We could out vote them,” Barkett said.
“We can actually make the change we want to see, instead of just marching in the streets for it, instead of just screaming for it,” he elaborated.
Barkett also said he believes students have a lack of interest in voting, but it is critical to vote.
“The decisions we’re making now are going to affect us for the longest term,” he said. “Some congressman making a decision will probably have to live with that for 20 years, where we will be living with their decisions for 50, 60 years.”
Caroline Smith, executive vice president of SGA, said it would be beneficial for SGA or YSU to inform students of candidates, their platforms and issues on the ballot through a non-partisan presentation.
She said voting is important because it is part of American citizens’ Constitutional right.
“It’s a privilege to be able to vote, and the more you participate in that, the more you promote it, the better the system’s going to work in your favor,” Smith said.
James Mullarkey, president of the YSU College Conservatives, said it is important for students vote because one vote can make a difference.
“We’re increasingly living in an era of time that is becoming closer in election numbers, and now more than ever with corporation interests … votes matter, votes count, votes make the difference,” Mullarkey said.
Barkett, Smith and Mullarkey said it is disheartening that some of their peers are not politically active and do not vote in elections.
“It’s a shame to see when students aren’t passionate about their future, and they don’t see the connection of how [they] vote today and how their vote will affect them tomorrow once those polls close,” Smith stressed.