Presidential elections are big and flashy. They set voting records and often draw a majority of Americans to the polls. Midterm elections are no less important, deciding the makeup of the entire House of Representatives and a third of the U.S. Senate, as well as many governors and other local elections. However, voter turnout in midterm elections is far less than in presidential elections.
With the midterms quickly approaching, efforts to register voters are amping up on campus. The administration hopes to make voting easier for students through partnerships with political engagement organizations and voter registration opportunities on campus, offering a variety of options to help prepare for the midterms and to increase voter turnout.
Through a partnership with TurboVote, Case Western Reserve University students can register to vote online, request an absentee ballot, check their voter registration and sign up for election reminders.
The Center for Civic Engagement (CCEL) has also implemented several programs to encourage voting and voter registration. Students wishing to sign up to vote can simply visit the CCEL office anytime during business hours. Additionally, CCEL has partnered with the Andrew Goodman Foundation to bring the Vote Everywhere Program to Case Western Reserve University, which seeks to encourage political involvement through workshops and voting-related events.
For native Clevelanders, the upcoming election means the opportunity to vote on problems plaguing their hometown. Third-year student Diona James cites the proposed Issue 1, which would reduce drug charges and send fewer people to jail for the crime, as one of the most significant provisions on this year’s ballot.
“I think [Issue 1] is important specifically for Cleveland because a lot of the crimes in Cleveland have to do with drug possession,” said James.
CWRU professors are also encouraging political involvement among students. “To me, the main reason to vote is that if you don’t vote, you’re helping people you disagree with win,” said Joseph White Ph.D., Luxenberg Family Professor of Public Policy.
White believes that voting gives citizens a voice in issues that affect them, such as health care. “Not voting means giving in to the people you think are trying to make your community or country a worse place,” he said.
There are many reasons for low voter turnout in midterms. Some are universal election issues: the U.S. does not consider election day a national holiday, which prevents many Americans from getting to the polls because they cannot take the time off of work to travel to the polls. Also, a Supreme Court of the United States decision in 2013 that repealed the section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required the federal government to approve any state changes to voting laws opened the door for many states to institute voter ID laws, which has been shown to disproportionately disenfranchise low income and minority groups.
The legal framework around voting isn’t the only thing that affects turnout, a fact which is especially true for young Americans. Apathy, confusing voter registration laws and a variety of other factors contribute to the low turnout numbers of young voters.
There is a general consensus in the news media and nonprofit industries that high turnout rates are healthy for democracy and thus a goal worth working toward. While there are some voter turnout groups like Rock The Vote, which puts on concerts to help register voters and has been around for 28 years, the emergence of new media companies and platforms has opened the door for new methods of reaching younger and increasingly tech savvy voters.
This year’s big push occurred on Tuesday, National Voter Registration Day. In honor of the holiday, news organizations like Vice and The Washington Post flooded social media services with easy links to reach TurboVote. This presence was felt most strongly on Snapchat, where different organizations used different methods to try to convince users to register to vote.
The last day for voters to register in Ohio is Tuesday, Oct. 9. Election Day will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 6.