More than 100 students have registered in JSU campus voting drives in the past weeks. Issues such as the cost of higher education, the availability of financial aid and future job prospects are among top concerns of students such as Junior Byron Jackson.
"Because we have so many things going on with the education, the money, student loans, Pell Grant, financial aid, all those different things that I as a student," says Jackson, "I feel it's going to be necessary for me to vote because every vote counts."
SGA President Jason Sumner agrees. "Students need to weigh their options, and understand how this will affect them in their financial aid," he says. "Their financial aid allows them to go to school. If the price of school continues to go up, what are they going to do?"
Yet in an election that will impact students in such a direct way, surveys show that young people-already an underrepresented demographic-are less engaged in the upcoming presidential election than they were four years ago. Sumner hopes to eradicate this apathy toward an action he sees as a patriotic responsibility.
"[Students] have a part in the shaping of American tradition, in the shaping of the American ideal and self-government," he says. "And I want them to fully participate in that process. I want them to take the time to register to vote, to go to their polling place."
Senior Calvin Nelms agrees. This will be his second time to vote in a presidential election. "No matter what race, religion or creed you come from, one of your, or some of your ancestors fought for you to have that right," says Nelms. "So it's important for you to show respect and exercise that right to vote, because somebody fought for you to have that."
But others disagree.
"Because my parents don't vote, so I don't care," says Sophomore Megan Vaughn. "I don't complain, so I don't vote."
"I don't like voting for things," agrees Sophomore Kailea Jones. "I like to be abstained in everything because I feel that, even if I do vote, it won't make much of a difference."
Tim Barnett, associate professor in the Department of Political Science, counters the notion.
"Think of it this way: The overall effect of a thousand food wrappers scattered on campus impacts the quality of life for all," says Barnett. "The same applies to voting. When single voting decisions are viewed cumulatively, the prospect for constructive reform is impacted."
As for students who don't support either candidate, Sumner has this advice.
"No matter what party they're in, no matter where they stand politically, no American is going to identify 100 percent with a candidate," he says. "You might align perfectly with a particular individual concern or cause, but with candidates you're not. You're never going to find a 100 match."
Dr. Lori Owens, associate professor and chair in the Political Science department, thinks younger voters should consider the economic situation and their future job prospects when deciding whether to cast a vote.
"If they are at all concerned about their current or future job prospects," says Owens, "then I would think they would study the proposals offered by each candidate and cast their vote accordingly."
As for Sumner, he will continue to register students up until 10 days before the presidential election. Students can visit the Office of Student Life, where he will "stop what I'm doing and take time to get them registered."
It's a simple process, according to Sumner. "The form can be a little intimidating, but I'll walk them through it."
As for Sophomore Brandon Clark, he's excited about his first opportunity to vote. "I don't believe there's any reason why someone shouldn't vote, because like everybody says, every vote matters."