The Student Vote: An ‘Untapped Force’ for Change
Stetson University student Gabriel Smith will cast his ballot for the first time Nov. 8. He said he’s been waiting a long time to vote.
“I’ve always been interested in U.S. history, so I had that inclination to be aware of politics,” said Smith, 20, a junior majoring in communication and media studies. “Growing up in New York, I lived there when Hillary Clinton was elected to the Senate. It’s like a sports team winning a championship for me.”
Despite a national trend of voter apathy among young people, Smith and students at Stetson are uniquely engaged. Stetson undergraduate students voted at a rate 8 percent higher than 18 to 24 year olds across the country and 5.5 percent higher than other colleges and universities in the region in 2012, according to Stetson Votes.
“We’re proud of the work we’ve done at Stetson Votes in the last two years in making student political voices heard throughout the community,” said Kevin Winchell, associate director of Community Engagement. “But we can do better.”
At 22 years old, Heather Kobus plans to pursue a future in politics. Having worked on the Trump presidential campaign over the summer, Kobus has also worked for Marco Rubio’s campaign for president, and now his campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate. However, politics weren’t always an interest. “I wanted to be an astronaut.
“When I was a freshman in high school watching all these political debates, it really hit me, these people are in office and I have no idea who they are or what they do,” said Kobus, a senior majoring in psychology. “If we don’t step up and make a change now and vote, then how is our generation going to be better?”
Stetson’s student body can be an important voice in the political process, said Winchell in Community Engagement.
“Stetson University has 3,000 undergraduate students,” he said. “That’s an untapped force for political change if we’re able to harness it effectively.”
Hosting events with College Democrats and College Republicans, Stetson Votes has provided a platform for young voter education. “We do more than watching,” said Candace White, College Democrats president, and a psychology and political science major.
Added Christina Borg, Stetson Votes president and a junior majoring in political science and sociology, “We try to combat voter apathy by making them believe that their vote matters — because it does.”
Stetson Votes will host the final Presidential Debate watch party Wednesday, Oct. 19, at 9 p.m. in Rinker Auditorium in the Lynn Business Center. On Tuesday, Oct. 25, Stetson Votes will put on a Rock the Vote concert from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in front of the CUB.