This is the final installment of a three-part series covering Bill Clinton’s visit to TAMIU and related topics.
By Iris Vasquez Guerrero
Students seem to feel like they make up a large part of the voting population. While this may be true, they are not showing up to vote.
Adults age 18-29 only made up about 29.6% of the votes in Texas in 2012, and those age 30 and over made up over 61% of the votes cast.
In our city, county, and state, the actual ballots submitted are minuscule in relation to our population. Historically, Texas has had low voter turnout unless it is a presidential election. Even so, compared to our almost 19 million citizens who are of voting age, only about 13 million make it to the polls. Voting tends to spike when there is a real battle to be had for the nomination and ultimately, the presidency. The percentage of voters who are 65 and older is still much higher than the 18-29 group.
Ask any student on campus, and most will say they believe that we have a strong voice and even stronger opinions on who should be our next POTUS. However, those same students fail to realize that the numbers don’t show that they are putting their money where their mouth is. Many posts to the TAMIU Student Network Facebook page are mixed when it comes to politics, but I am just happy to see them talking about it at all. I no longer fit in the 18-29 category, but I know that when I was a part of it, I only voted a handful of times.
I ask myself why college students are not voting and I think back on my own faults, which include parties, focus on school, small income, and plain old indifference. These things and more may have impacted my decision on whether or not to vote, but they are in no way an excuse for it. Now being just a little older, I see how politics can really make an impact on my life. It is something that my 20 year old self might not have paid much attention to.
A part of the problem here in Texas is that many students that are away at college do not take the time to vote with an absentee ballot. The process can feel much like an annoyance versus receiving your “I Voted” sticker that makes you feel elated. In the last presidential election, only 19 absentee ballots were counted and received. When you stop to think about how many Laredoans are away at college, 19 votes is tragic. Some voters may have traveled home to vote, but still, this number seems so small in comparison to other cities.
Statistics show that when Texan voters see two major opponents in the primaries or the general elections, they show up at the polls. The same is true for college age students. The turnout in Texas for the 2008 primaries was over 2 million voters, the highest it had been since the 1970’s.
Because the current candidates from both parties are so controversial, I would expect to see many Texans voting in this Super Tuesday primary election. But more importantly, I would hope to see the many students on campus voting as well.
When I participated in early voting the other day here on campus, the polling site had only had 26 voters for the day before. This may have been regular citizens, faculty, or students. Either way, 26 is again, such a small number in comparison to how many students attend school here and live in Laredo. It is also sad because we have a polling site right here on campus, where it makes access a non-issue.
In the Bush/Gore election, I had lost some faith in the system because Bush won with electoral votes, versus Gore who won with the popular vote. I became a non-voter because I decided my vote didn’t count anyway. For this coming election, I decided that my vote is needed. The alternative is to let someone else decide for me. Texas is known as a conservative state, and I am worried about where that may leave us once the elections are over. I know that my one single vote may not make a difference, but on a larger scale, 7,000 students could.
Regardless of party affiliation, I encourage all students to consider the issues important to them and make an effort to vote on Super Tuesday, as well as in the general election in November as well. Let’s stop talking about how terrible or wonderful the candidates are, and actually put it in writing.