Vriezen: Students should be more involved in elections

Claire Vriezen

As someone who has never had the opportunity to vote in an election before, there was a sense of satisfaction as I completed my ballot Monday and clicked “Submit.” Since I was born about a month too late to vote in the 2010 Congressional Elections, I liked the idea of contributing my voice to my community’s leadership. 

Elections at the student body level may not seem like something to get excited over, but I find that knowing the effect a vote can have — especially when voter turnout is low — can be a powerful feeling. 

College students are statistically the population that is the least likely to vote. Despite seeming to be the most vocal in all things political, a majority of college-age students will consistently fail to arrive at the polls come elections, be it presidential or congressional. In the 2008 presidential election, only 41 percent of 18-20 year olds voted. For those that aged 21 to 24 years, only 46.6 percent showed up to vote.  Congressional elections have an even more dismal turnout, with the college-aged cohorts barely reaching over 20 percent.

Earlier this week, elections were held for the Government of the Student Body. I would be shocked if more than 10 percent of the ISU student population bothered to vote. It seems the average student doesn’t care a great deal about those that have the power to exact change in their school. 

Most students probably don’t realize the extent to which GSB is involved in their daily lives. GSB provides and manages funding for most of the student organizations on campus, the Iowa State Daily, Recreation Services, CyRide, the list continues. GSB also works to keep tuition increases minimal through lobbying and funds the Financial Counseling Clinic. GSB collaborates with the Campustown Student Association to improve Campustown in a student-friendly manner and addresses a host of other student related issues.  Whether seen or not, GSB influences everyone on campus. 

Despite the fact that sidewalks have been chalked and fliers posted for the respective presidential candidates, only a small fraction of the 28,000 students on campus will have taken five minutes to log in a click a few buttons to vote. 

And yet, students will continue to complain about the state of campus politics. But what have they done to help along the system that is working for their benefit? The GSB is made of leaders that intend to represent the students. In reality, those elected to GSB positions only represent the votes of a few thousand students. Are you going to let those few thousand decide who runs your student government?

If students want to make some sort of impact in the programs of this school, the simplest thing they can do is to vote every year. Until then, those that complain about how GSB handles finances, organizations and activities will find little sympathy from me. 

Sure, one can disagree about the way things are being run and handled.  The question is, did you do anything to make your voice heard at the polls?