The university recently announced it will give paid leave to Kent State employees who volunteer to work at the polls on Election Day. It’s a well-intentioned offer, but why stop there?
This election is historic; we all know that. Even if we look past Barack Obama’s race, John McCain’s age and Sarah Palin’s gender, Nov. 4 has the potential to change everything from the way we view our country to how much change jingles in our pockets to the way the rest of the world deals with us.
Whether it’s Obama or McCain, the next president’s policies will affect the job market as we enter it, health care as we look for our own policies, public schools as we begin to have children and perhaps even social security as we eventually near retirement.
For many of us, this will be the first presidential election in which our voices are heard – the first time we can have a say in the future of our country. On Nov. 4, we can officially enter the world as adults who helped choose the so-called leader of the free world.
Too much is at stake for us to miss our chance to participate this Election Day, be it through poll working, campaign volunteering or voting. That’s why it’s not enough for the university to just make it easier for paid staff to take the day off.
While we’re encouraged that campus groups are working to register voters, we implore the university to become more invested and involved in the effort to increase civic activism among students. Don’t just support the cause – champion it.
Every professor should take the time to dedicate one class session to the importance of this election. Encourage students to become involved, informed and interested. Make it a regular part of class for the next six weeks. Cancel classes Nov. 4 or don’t penalize students for an absence that day. Offer extra credit for students who come back Nov. 5 with proof that they participated in the political process in some way.
In 2004, only 47 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 24 voted in the presidential election, the lowest of any age group eligible to vote and 17 percent lower than the national average.
According to a youth voting study by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, a non-profit organization, 11.6 million American youth voted that year, up 3 million votes from 2000 and the highest turnout of young voters since 1972.
Fourty-seven percent is still a sad number from the group that has the most invested in the result of the presidential election. Let’s change that. There is no reason every student on this campus shouldn’t participate on Election Day.
George W. Bush’s presidency takes up most of our political memory. It’s not difficult to imagine that some students here probably don’t even remember a time when he wasn’t president.
All that is about to change.
What are you doing Nov. 4?
The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.