Two years ago, Obama and McCain political propaganda swamped campus in a sea of red, white and blue. Posters, signs and stickers covered bulletin boards from top to bottom, and students donned supportive buttons. Chalked messages on sidewalks encouraged people to vote, while student activists marched through dormitories, knocking on doors to persuade other students to register to vote.
The same political organizations that so ardently promoted their candidates on campus made no similar campaign in the 2010 midterm elections. In fact, if it weren’t for the political ads on TV and the briefly advertised election panel discussion on Oct. 21, most students would have had no idea the election even occurred. The lack of interest in voting signals to us a failure of many students to become engaged and informed citizens.
While many may argue that the propaganda from two years ago spawned conflict and provided no real information, we believe having at least some information is better than none. Placing posters, signs and pamphlets in prominent locations around campus reminds students to take part in the democratic process. It also encourages students to conduct research and practice their analytical skills when deciding which candidates’ positions align best with their own interests.
Moreover, in the past, these organizations helped students register to vote in Union County. This time, many underclassmen were uninformed about how to register. Others didn’t know enough about the candidates or where they could even vote. While the political groups may have their own agendas at election time, they are usually successful in increasing voter awareness and turnout. Their absence this year was felt at the polls on campus.
The overall lack of information about the election on campus was disconcerting. Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.) even held an open forum on campus on Oct. 12, but the event was not well publicized. Some professors mentioned the election during their classes, but few were able to convey the importance of the outcome on students’ lives. Many students believed their votes would not matter.
Still, we cannot fault political organizations alone for a subdued effort. We as students are given the right to vote and we should exercise that right. If we are unwilling to go out of our way to gain more information about the election and its candidates, that is really no one’s fault but our own. It is unfair for people to arbitrarily choose names on a ballot, but it is also a travesty that we will not make a substantial effort to understand the policies that will undoubtedly affect us in the future.