Voting apathy plagues Illinois Wesleyan students



College students are often perceived to be activism-oriented, politically hopeful people. But electoral turnout is much lower for citizens under thirty than it is for older voters.

Voter apathy among Illinois Wesleyan University, Illinois State University and Heartland Community College students is a source of frustration for many in the Bloomington-Normal area. And it should be.

Although the average Illinois Wesleyan student is actively involved in a plethora of campus and community organizations, many don’t feel personally attached to local elections.

“College students don’t care about local elections because a large number of them don’t consider Bloomington-Normal ‘home,’” said junior Anthony Lopez. “If someone does not identify themselves as a local, they will not be concerned with local policy.”

But while we’re attending Illinois Wesleyan, we spend far more of our time in Bloomington-Normal than we do in our hometowns. The census counts us as residents, and local policy has the potential to affect us as both students and citizens.
“In regards to local elections, you would think more people would vote because that’s where the probability of making a difference could actually be strong,” said Tari Renner, professor of political science. “Because of the small amount of voters, your individual vote carries more weight, and you’re more likely to make a difference.”

Indifference towards voting is particularly unacceptable in Bloomington-Normal where college students are such a large demographic. As a group, we are missing an opportunity to directly impact policy.

It can be tempting to blame our failure to vote on the vague belief that one vote won’t matter, or the certainty that we simply don’t have time to learn about the candidates and issues at hand. But answering “the 2008 presidential election” to describe the last time we remember voting is unacceptable for young adults as active and engaged in our community as we are at Illinois Wesleyan.

When our coursework and extracurricular activities consistently provide plenty of informed dialogue and experience-based fodder to spark political interest and action, there’s simply no excuse for consistently neglecting the voting booth on election days—no matter how small or insignificant they might appear when compared to the media frenzy surrounding presidential elections.

“I think many students don’t feel informed enough to vote and also don’t care enough to take time out of already busy schedules to become informed,” said senior Laura Gaffey, president of IWU College Democrats. “But decisions made by politicians have a huge impact on our generation, especially with things like student loans, the affordability of college and health care for recent graduates.”

And while reading up on the candidates for the Republican primaries might land at the very bottom of your lengthy to-do list, doing your research could have drastic consequences—both positive and negative—for the future of our country.

“Sure, you likely won’t ever find your dream candidate who supports everything that you support,” said senior Tracy Lytwyn, president of IWU College Republicans. “But make sure that at the end of the day, you’re comfortable with a person like him or her representing you as an American citizen.”

Because of the expansive liberal arts education we receive at Illinois Wesleyan, we are constantly involved in a dialogue about what are society should look like. We are particularly able and responsible to take advantage of our privilege to vote in every election.

It’s about time we do so.