The Hoya’s recent article on the student group GU Votes provides an excellent report of the student-led initiative to increase voter turnout in the Georgetown University student community, while also discussing barriers to voting faced by students. When I was an undergraduate, I would have benefited from an initiative like GU Votes.
Today, I am a Ph.D. student here at Georgetown, but during the 2014 midterm elections, I was an undergraduate at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Discussion of the election was nearly nonexistent among students at SMU in 2014. Although most of my peers were Texans, their hometowns could be hundreds of miles away from campus, thus inaccessible for in-person voting. I printed forms to request absentee ballots for myself and my friends. Still, many of them let their request form get lost in the shuffle of assignments, exams, and interviews, and didn’t vote in 2014.
My anecdote represents a broader pattern; according to the United States Elections Project, Texas was the state with second-lowest voter participation in 2014. Only 28.5 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot. How can we have a government by the people when only a fraction of a fraction of the people choose who makes the decisions that affect us all?
I share my undergraduate experience because based on what I learned from The Hoya’s report, GU Votes’ model should be replicated at every higher education institution in the United States. I encourage the GU Votes team to look beyond the already highly politically-aware D.C. community, and share their model with universities in states with a record of low voter turnout. As we approach the Nov. 6 elections, I hope to see more stories in The Hoya about GU Votes and student civic engagement.
Jewel Lipps is a second-year doctoral candidate in the biology department.