Opinion: Get educated before you vote

Ray Paoletta is a junior political science major and a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

Ray Paoletta

Whenever there is a major election, college campuses become flooded with groups trying to “get out the vote.” These organizations bring celebrities, models and party buses to campus to take students to the polls to vote. Get-out-the-vote movements are great, but they do nothing to educate students on for what or whom they are voting.  At Kent State, groups register voters and find ways to get out the vote, but nobody is educating the students. This should not be a partisan issue. Everybody, including college students, should be educated about the candidates and issues that will appear on their ballot.

In 2012, Jack Black came to Kent State to take students to the polls. This year, Cosmopolitan Magazine used shirtless models to push students, particularly single females, to vote. Missing from these get out the vote efforts are voter education efforts.

Candidates, campaigns and other involved groups make phone calls to potential voters, knock on doors, set up tables at carnivals and fairs, but they do not campaign on college campuses. The bigger effort is to get students to the polls and as far as information goes—the hat is up to the students to figure out. It seems as though candidates believe they benefit more from an uneducated college voter than an educated vote.

An effort must be made from universities, get out the vote groups and campaigns to get students educated. Last fall, Kent State hosted a forum with a number of city council candidates.  Students were able to learn about the candidates and ask questions of each candidate. Events like that forum should be a norm on college campuses during every election season, and the importance of attending those events should be advertised. Furthermore, universities should be open to allowing campaigns to distribute campaign literature on campus to allow students to learn more about their ballot. Campaigns should also be more willing to spend time on campus to interact with the students who will vote.

An uneducated electorate is harmful to democracy. Yes, voting is the most important part of democracy, but no, that does not mean that voters should show up to the polls without knowing anything about the candidates or issues. Universities, campaigns and other groups who work to get students out to vote should put an emphasis on educating student voters. Today’s students will be tomorrow’s politicians. Do we really want to implant the idea that being uneducated about the issues facing this country is best? Most would agree that educating student voters is far more beneficial than simply bringing models and celebrities to campus to urge people to vote.