According to a report conducted by the Institute for Democracy in Higher Education (IDHE), 33.5% of Furman students voted in the 2020 election. Meanwhile, 40.6% of Furman students were registered to vote. While a large percentage of registered voters participated in the election—with 82.6% of registered student voters participating in the election—the number of student voters is abysmal when compared to nationwide averages. According to IDHE, the national average is 66%. Our voting rates as a university are about half the national average, a statistic that must be changed.
It is crucial that young people vote in elections because the people elected today will be making the decisions that will create the world we live in. Your voice matters and it is important that you use it to help build the legislature of tomorrow. However, students are not entirely to blame. The ability to vote is new to us and just because we do not believe that an election is important does not mean it is not important. We need programs on our campus that encourage Furman students to vote and teach them about the importance of all elections.
Furman must provide us with the resources that will encourage us to vote. One means of doing this is by making voter registration a part of freshmen orientation. Most Freshmen will be preparing to vote in their first election and by providing them with the means to register, we can ensure a larger number of students are eligible to engage in elections. I for one registered to vote when I got my driver's license but not everyone is able to go to the DMV to register because not everyone has a car, and not everyone can afford transportation. Furthermore, if a student has a job on top of their studies, it may be difficult for them to find the time to go to the DMV. The stereotypes about DMV lines are no joke and unless someone wants to wake up at 4 am to get in line before they open, registering to vote may provide too much of an opportunity cost for students.
However, Furman should not stop at encouraging students to register to vote. They should also ensure there are systems in place that motivate registered voters to participate in elections. One major improvement we could have is registering Furman as an official voting place. Making voting as easy as walking to the student center would encourage more students to vote because it would provide the option right in their backyard. Furman should also give students election day off. If you are busy moving from class to class and trying to complete your homework for the day it is hard to find the time to vote. Giving students election day off can help clear up these conflicts and hopefully get more students to the polls.
Our voices need to be heard. The decisions politicians make today will create the world we have to live in for the rest of our lives. So I encourage Furman to create programs that encourage students to vote. And I encourage Furman students to take these opportunities and vote for the legislation they want. For more information, contact Dins Vote.