Voting season is now in full swing, and those registered to vote in California should have received, or will soon be receiving, their mail-in ballots. The official election day and deadline to vote in the U.S. is on Nov. 3 and fast approaching. This election, California voters have the opportunity to vote on 13 propositions, the presidency, the state assembly, the state senate and congress.
However, young college-aged students are consistently one of the least likely demographics to participate, with generally a lower voter turnout. According to the National Study of Learning Voting, and Engagement, in the most recent general presidential elections, from 2012 and 2016, UCR had a voting rate of 38.9% and 41.1% respectively. Though there was a slight increase in turnout between the years, the percentage remained less than half of the university’s student population at the time.
In a conscious effort to encourage more young people to vote this year and promote student civic engagement overall, ASUCR’s Office of External Affairs formed the student-run Civic Engagement Committee earlier this summer. The organization operates as a part of the UCR Civic Engagement Coalition, a group that works with students, staff and other entities on campus.
Third-year public policy major and director of civic engagement, Emily Thomas, spoke to The Highlander about why it is important for young people to use their voices. “You have power in your vote to enact change in your community — literally every vote counts. I’ve seen local races that have been lost and won by one vote. That one vote could be yours,” she stated. Thomas went on to add that this year is especially critical, as the upcoming election will mark the first time in which millennials and Generation Z will have a greater voting majority than baby boomers and the silent generation.
Still, students who already intend to vote have strong opinions when it comes to political views, and particularly, as it involves the election of the incoming president. The Highlander spoke to a handful of students to share their perspectives on the upcoming election.
Daniel Huynh, a fourth-year psychology major, asserted that he is a sure vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. However, he added that it is not necessarily because he supports their platform, rather “just to not have another Trump presidency.” Huynh stated that Biden and Harris have their own issues, especially in that they cannot seem to agree on many policies that are included on their 2020 ticket.
Another student, Charissa Johannes, a third-year business major, also conveyed her support for Biden and Harris with a similar stipulation. She asserted that although neither of this year’s presidential candidates are ideal, Biden clearly seems like the lesser evil out of both men. Johannes was vehement in her opposition of the reinstatement of Donald Trump as president. She expressed severe disappointment with many facets of Trump’s leadership, from the way he has handled the COVID-19 pandemic to the way he has treated and talked about women over the course of his term as head of the nation. “Trump is racist, disrespectful and does not care about the American people as a whole,” Johannes concluded.
Ramy Shbaita, a third-year history and public policy major, stated that he is uncomfortable with voting for either candidate; though, he is likely voting for Trump. ”There’s not anything I truly like about Trump,” he stated, ”I just trust that with him most of the policies I agree with won’t be repealed or changed.” Shbaita added that he dislikes the “moronic” image that Trump can often project in public. However, he also does not appreciate the way Biden has been handling the issues that have been thrown his way, as according to Shbaita, the Democratic candidate has vacillated between stances one too many times.
A third-year business administration major who requested to stay anonymous due to concerns over the backlash he might receive for his political affiliations expressed his complete support for Trump. He stated, “I’m voting for Trump because he’s addressing issues that most people aren’t aware of, from media bias to tech censorship…” This student maintained that he is appreciative of Trump’s fearlessness when talking about issues that he sees, though he added that Trump can be too brash and should take the time to conduct proper research and think before speaking out. This student also felt that Biden is the more worrisome candidate in that he “refuses to answer questions because his responses would jeopardize his support.”
Still, regardless of which candidate one ultimately decides to vote for, Thomas encourages all students to have a plan for this election season. She advises people to make sure that they are completely informed about the voting process, being sure to fill out each section correctly. “Get your friends and families involved because you have the power to create change in your communities,” she stated.