As college students, we have the opportunity to participate in the electoral process and help steer the direction of politics. Younger generations have a unique opportunity to understand the political process due to outlets like social media, which about one in five Americans use to access their political news, according to a 2020 Pew Research Center study.
Due to this level of access to political resources, young people have an extraordinary opportunity to learn about the political process and participate in elections. The officials we do or don’t vote for in this process make decisions that will affect us. They vote on topics like student debt, social rights, funding for higher education and the economy. Other decisions that politicians make today will also impact what kind of world we enter upon graduation, so casting a vote is our way to express and decide what we want for our lives and futures.
Out-of-state students are in an even more unique position when it comes to elections, as they can decide which address they choose to register to vote under. However, out-of-state students should vote or continue to vote in their home state.
The policies implemented at the local level will have the most impact on out-of-state students, even while they are away at college. Families, friends, the larger community and even the student can experience political tension from local politics, which can impact the student's college career.
As an out-of-state student from Tennessee, I see the need to continue voting in my home state while in Arizona. Tennessee is known for its predominantly Republican legislature and conservative values. Since these values don’t align with my own, the only way I can try and make a difference within my home state and see my own values reflected in the politics there is to vote in Tennessee. It gives me an opportunity to vote people into office who will make economic and educational decisions at the federal level that may impact my college career.
Young voters are increasingly becoming a stronger presence in elections. Millennials and Generation Z had a record-breaking turnout in the 2020 election, foreshadowing great potential sway in elections to come. Despite these encouraging statistics and opportunities, young adults within these generations had the lowest voter turnout percentage (51.4%) among all other age demographics in the 2020 election.
Most of the low turnout likely stems from lifestyle and voter registration blocks, as many students and young adults struggle to make time to register to vote or make it to the polls, because of the unpredictability and instability of their schedules. This can be especially true for college students with loaded schedules. The rules about registration deadlines, voter ID requirements and residency requirements, which can be complicated for out-of-state students, can impact new and young voter turnout as well.
Older voters show up to vote in midterm elections about twice as much as younger voters, according to a journal published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and Arizona State University.
The gap continues to widen for local elections, proving that younger voters and students need to be more active in politics, particularly within their own local elections. However, this can be especially difficult for someone who is an out-of-state college student. Navigating one’s local and home state politics while away can seem overwhelming, as well as keeping up with registration deadlines and voting days. Despite this, there are many ways students can stay active within their home state.
There are many organizations and resources available for students who want to register to vote. Around campus, many activists attempt to persuade people to register to vote as well. Out-of-state students can also participate in local elections and midterm elections through absentee ballots. If out-of-state students do not see themselves living in the state they are attending university for the long term, they should continue voting in their home state. Doing so can not only increase the younger voter turnout rate but can also ensure a student’s voice and values are heard within their permanent state of residence. This is how more diverse opinions and views can be seen in state governments and how youth can begin shaping the society they will enter while in college.
As someone who has felt underrepresented and undervalued because of their views within their own state, and as someone who also had the opportunity to live elsewhere for college where this was not the case, I realize that voting is the only way to possibly change these circumstances for me and others that I care about in Tennessee.
This is why it is essential to vote as a college student and not let residency constraints due to attending a college in a different state get in the way of this fundamental right.
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Luke Lawson (he/him) is a sophomore intending to major in accounting. He enjoys discussing political events, hiking and watching films.