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Your Vote Matters

Posted: November 5, 2018 — Over the years, several reports and data show that those individuals who attend a college or university are more likely to vote than those who never attended one. Colleges, like Fulton-Montgomery Community College, not only strive to teach students academics, they teach students civic responsibility – including voting. Certainly in this difficult political time, working with students to express their voice and their vote is very important.

While historically it is true that college graduates vote in greater numbers than non-graduates, it will be interesting to see if that correlation continues. There is another trend that may affect voting. The current student population, often referred to as Generation Z, is totally turned off by the current state of politics. They are much less likely to want to be associated with one political party or the other (Republican or Democrat). Of those who do register to vote, the fastest growing affiliations are the Independent Party or No Affiliation at all. Additionally, this generation tends to be less informed about the news or current events.

However, there are many factors converging that will influence voting. Generation Z cares about many issues. They care about sustainability, energy efficiency, global warming, safe communities and other issues that are affecting the human race. They are much more inclusive of people from different backgrounds including race, religion, refugees, sexual preference or gender identification, among others. Therefore, it seems that this generation is more likely to vote for a more progressive agenda – if they vote.

I remember when I was studying for my bachelor’s degree at SUNY Fredonia, students fought for, and won, the right to vote in local elections based on where they went to college. The logic was that students spent more months of the year where the college was located than in their hometown. We wanted to express our opinions on local issues that might affect our life as residents of the city/town/village in which we lived for nine months each year. We won that right; however, when it was all said and done, few college students voted.

While colleges are often accused of pushing a liberal agenda and not tolerating conservative opinions, I have not found that to be entirely true. Rather, faculty on college campuses push students to research and explore their opinions and not just take any political agenda at face value. Typically young people begin to form their political views based upon their family’s opinions; colleges encourage students to explore the issues and develop their own political opinions based on facts and data not hear-say.

Voting is a learned behavior and often comes from a sense of duty and responsibility. That is why older Americans vote in larger numbers – they have trained themselves to do so over the years. Every year as we look at American voter turnout, we are disappointed. In non-presidential election years the voter turnout has sometimes been so poor that people are elected to high-level offices (Congressman, Senator, Governor, etc.) by a small percentage of the total population.

Regardless of our age, regardless of our political opinions, we all should vote. We all must vote.

This article was written by Dr. Dustin Swanger, President of Fulton-Montgomery Community College.

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