As we embark upon a new semester, we also are beginning the process of determining the next leader of the free world in this year’s General Election. As a result, this semester Furman University is competing in the “SoCon Votes Challenge” — a competition among SoCon schools to see who can have the highest voter registration and turnout.
As student leader for this competition, I was given the task of developing a plan of action in order to attain our goal of increasing voter turnout. As it stands, Furman University has lacked involvement in the political sphere, specifically in the past presidential and midterm elections. As part of the competition, each school was given statistics from the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement or the NSLVE, that depict the rate at which their students turn out to vote. Dr. Fleming, the lead professor of the project, and myself discussed these turnout rates, and were shocked at the results. In 2012 our voting rate was 24 percent and in 2014 our voting rate was 8 percent.
These voting rates put Furman in the bottom tier in terms of democratic engagement. In both elections the national average voting rate for colleges similar to Furman was nearly double than our rate. One major aspect of Furman comes into discussion as a possible reason for our low turnout rates: Furman University is not a politically active campus. In my conversations with certain members of Furman’s faculty, it was noted that we are not the type of school that commonly sees students protesting various causes. In fact, the turnout among our students for selection of class officers is also considerably low. There seems to be widespread apathy in terms of political advocacy on this campus.
Despite this, Furman University aims to reinvent our political culture by crafting an information hub for this year’s General Election. The “Dins Vote” competition provides us with the opportunity to improve our voting rates. It will be our job to provide students with the information necessary to register and vote with absentee ballots. However, we cannot do this alone. I am challenging my fellow Dins to participate in the democratic process this year and prove the critics of this University wrong. After all, this is Furman University — we strive to be the best.
For students looking for more information – feel free to email me at [email protected].
For more information in regards to absentee voting for your respective state – visit FVAP.gov and select your home state for more information.