Adam O'Malley

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Politically potent: How students have the ability to swing legislative agenda

Students across the country are largely unaware of the politics occurring in their daily lives and how much of an impact they can have on it. On one hand, you have a very small number of students who keep in touch with the news and laws being passed in our government; on the other, you have normal students who don’t care. This is a problem that should be largely addressed, and with proper research, I present you with my thoughts.

According to N.C. Board of Elections, in 2019 a total of 712,611 people voted in Mecklenburg County, the county that UNC Charlotte resides in. However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2019, 1,093,901 people resided in the county. That means there is a gap of 380,000 people who haven’t registered to vote! This is a large amount to not be registering. By having the mindset of, “Oh I won’t vote, what’s one vote going to do?” or other similar excuses, over one-quarter of the population has chosen to allow the other three-fourths to decide who is elected, and in turn, they do not get proper representation. One quarter may not seem like much to you, but allow me to further emphasize it.

According to the UNC Charlotte University profile, 29,710 students are currently enrolled. If that missing voting block of 380,000 is correct, it could be assumed that no one at our university voted. I know that it is obviously untrue, as there are many students who do vote. However, the fact is that if no one at our college voted, there still would be a loss of around 349,000 people who didn’t vote.

I don’t want you to take those numbers and be solely disappointed in them. Just because it may not seem that our whole college may not be a large voting block, 29,710 votes are still a lot of influence. In the general election of our county politics, many representatives won by a couple thousands of votes; for example, representative Dan McCready (Dem.) beat Mark Harris (Rep.) by 9,188 votes, something that could have been easily swayed. Every vote can and does add up in politics; the problem is having the mindset that because you are one person, you don’t make a difference.  

The idea of colleges being politically active and aware is a concept that has been around for decades. But the number of politically aware students is highly debatable. Regardless of the numbers, I personally find my peers to be largely unaware of the local as well as national issues pressing our daily lives. When I bring the discussion up to peers, the common responses include, “I just didn’t vote” or “There’s no reason to vote, it makes no impact.” The major problem is I know that many students feel that they usually do not have time to balance being politically active as well as being a good scholar, but there can be a proper balance. By just taking a little bit of time to look into party platforms or look up who is running in elections, you can get a good idea of someone who best represents your ideals and goals. This is something that should be largely researched because us college students have the power! Though most of us may not realize, there is a large number of college students who, with political awareness and activeness, can change the political battleground.  

What can we do to encourage political activeness as well as political awareness? I think that as a college student there should be more initiative on our behalf in order to better inform us so that when we leave college, we step off as knowledgeable, wise students willing to make an impact in the community. Perhaps our political clubs should make more events or the actual school itself should make a better effort. Political parties should advertise more to students and allow more interaction between members and students. This way students can learn more about their platforms, representatives and like-minded people. Most of all, the community should be pressed to encourage voting as the largest priority: it’s what makes the most difference. However it may go, I believe everyone deserves to know their right to vote and hear out what their representatives and politicians have to say and be able to make a powerful and well-researched vote.