According to Orange County Registrar statistics, the most proportionately under-represented age group in voter registration nationwide are youths between the ages of 18 and 24.
In order to remedy this, campaigns and slogans like ‘Rock the Vote’ and ‘Vote or Die’ attempt to motivate America’s youth toward the political process. UC Irvine’s very own New Voters Project is a comparable attempt.
The NVP was launched for the first time this year by CALPIRG in pursuit of raising registration turnout for the 18- to 24-year-old age group by 33 percent this year over previous election numbers. While its attempt is admirable in terms of the implied goal of increasing political participation, some of its methods to carry out this task are counterproductive.
One inappropriate aspect of the NVP is its use of classroom time to pass out registration cards. Taking a moment out of a lecture to discuss related material should be encouraged by professors to aid in teaching, however hearing a representative discuss the importance of voting, receiving registration cards and hearing information on other CALPIRG projects is simply a waste of students’ educational time.
It is the student who should decide whether or not he or she wishes to become involved, and it is a nuissance for some who had witnessed presentations as many as three separate occassions across different classes.
The classroom is a place for learning about the subject material covered in the course. Subjecting students to unneccessary advertising is simply wasteful of their opportunity to learn.
Another aspect of the project’s campaign that may have gone unrealized is its self-proclaimed non-partisanship. It is constructive to express the importance of voting through informing students of the election’s relevance to their lives, however the conflict of interest represented by the NVP coalition’s members has shown the potential for problems.
Students are approached by active political group members who, representing NVP with their red T-shirts, also express their personal and club views at the same time.
Explaining the benefits to society allowed by the democratic process and discussing the issues to be on the ballot this coming election can be a very positive message for people who aren’t registered to vote, but simultaneously advertising to vote a certain way on an issue is unfair to the political process as a whole.
It’s admirable that the NVP has hosted a few events to inform students on the issues, including an opportunity to watch the presidential debate and a discussion between opposing political groups on campus on this year’s major issues, however it seems as though they still need to focus on their goal of improving voter turnout.
If they simply want to increase voter registration, then traditional canvassing is the way to go. But if they want to increase political representation of America’s youth, they need to concentrate on actually getting students motivated about the issues to go out and vote.
The first step in addressing the problem of voter apathy may be stimulating a youth’s political mind by educating them on the issues, rather than watchng the numbers go up.
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