Project Vote Smart Encourages Democracy
By Ashleigh Wilson
Aggie Press Managing-Editor
It’s that time of year again, where yards are covered in signs and televisions are filled with endorsement ads, cars are packed with campaign stickers, and volunteers make their rounds to register people to vote. It’s election season.
With state and local general elections approaching, adults are not the only abled bodies that influence the political process.
On the campus of North Carolina A&T State University, student can be seen encouraging their peers to register to vote. These volunteers are part of many nonprofit organizations that help mobilize college students to register and vote.
Victoria Harvey, A&T junior political science student
One organization, Project Vote Smart, is comprised of interns and volunteers whose main goal is to “defend democracy.” PVS offers several outlets for citizens of any state to have access to voting records, public statements, campaign finances, and background information on candidates.
For the past few weeks, the Greensboro volunteers of PVS have been on A&T’s campus registering students to vote and encouraging them to boost their political awareness.
Victoria Harvey, an A&T junior political science major, stated that she is heavily involved in politics.
“As a political science student, I strongly believe that it is my civic duty to vote in every election,” said Harvey. “That is why I am very passionate about mobilizing students to go to the polls and vote, no matter if it is a local, state or presidential election.”
According to the Center for Information and Research on Civil Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), registration is crucial in getting college students to vote, and “in 2008, of the 18-24 year-old college students that registered to vote, 87 percent actually voted.”
Additionally, in 2008, “58.2 percent of African-American youth voted, which is the highest turnout rate of any youth racial/ethnic group since 1972.”
Despite the high youth participation in the 2008 election, young voters only comprised about 19 percent of the electorate, according to CIRCLE. This data suggested that there is an apathetic attitude towards politics among young people.
Harvey, who grew up in a home in Wilmington, N.C. that valued politics, firmly believes that college students need to vote at their universities because it can help to make a difference on a local scale.
She is aware of college student apathy towards politics but continues mobilize others to vote and also stays informed on current policies.
While there are students who are highly involved in politics, there are also other individuals who are not as enthralled about the democratic process.
Victavis Williams, an A&T junior graphic communications system student
Victavis Williams, a junior graphic communications system student, said that he is has no interest in politics.
“I feel that it’s important to be involved in whatever interests you, even if it’s politics, sports or the media field,” said Williams.
Although he recognizes the importance of political involvement, Williams believes that politics is mainly filled with lies and that is why he does not to get involved in politics.
“It’s like crabs in a bucket…because as soon as you make it to the top, someone is sure to pull you back to the bottom,” said Williams, adding that politics are a form authority and power, involving lies and over-competitiveness. If placed in the wrong hands, a positive outcome is not always to be expected, he said.
In fact, negligence is not the issue of college students voting. According to CIRCLE, in 2010, 12.2 percent of college students said their reason for not voting was due to a lack of interest.
Kashawn Little, a May 2014 social work graduate and HANDS LLC business owner, said that he is a registered voter who is highly involved in politics.
“The local elections are very important to me, [and] they hold more weight than the presidential election,” said Little. “Right now, the state of North Carolina’s governor has cut $500 million out of education, causing tuition to raise for out-of-state students by 12.4 percent. They have taxed our college food and entertainment (which was originally covered), and this is causing students to pay more money just to stay in school.”
Little believes that all decisions made by elected officials have effects on their constituents, and he plans to run for a political office in the future.
Along Little’s passion for politics, he also bears a strong dislike for government policy.
“I hate politics because the ones who have the power should not have it,” said Little. “I hate politics because America has become so small minded, and people don’t think for themselves.”
Kashawn Little, a May 2014 A&T social work graduate
Little explained how American politics is polluted with people who claim they love this country. Yet, those are the same people who will do anything in their power to inhibit the progress of the president.
Little uses this distaste of politics to fuel his desire to run for a political office and bring about positive change in local communities.
In terms of mobilizing students to be both present and active in politics, all three Aggies feel that there is still work to be done.
According to Harvey, student involvement at A&T could be increased if greater emphasis were placed on local and state elections, rather than presidential elections.
“As a member of the Political Science Society here on campus, hopefully, we figure out a way to make the policies more relatable to students.”
Williams stated that every election affects the residents of particular districts or regions, which also include college students.
According to Williams, if A&T students conducted more research on politics, then there would be more student involvement. However, “there still has to be some type of interest in that field for involvement to take place.”
Little said that student involvement, on the ground level, begins the students. He said that students cannot solely rely on their parents or media for knowledge on politics.
“Do the research for yourself,” said Little.
Polls will be open in the state of N.C. on Nov. 4 and the ballot will allows citizens to vote on the 12th congressional district of N.C., statewide ballot measures and school board officials.
To learn more about Project Vote Smart, visit http://votesmart.org.
For more information about voting guidelines in North Carolina, visit http://www.ncvoterguide.org.