In less than 63 days, Americans will exercise a freedom not every person across the globe has the privilege of experiencing: voting. On Nov. 3, whether it be in person or by mail, we will cast our ballots. For Texas A&M students, where we vote is crucial, and it should be in College Station.
I will be the first to admit, voting for a city counselor is not as exciting as voting for the next president of the United States. However, is it any less important? For example, in 2014 one vote in Ohio decided seven local issues. A housing ordinance in College Station is going to have more of a direct effect on students than a proclamation adjusting imports of steel.
Many A&M students are probably not registered to vote in College Station. All of my roommates are preparing to vote by mail since they are registered in their hometowns. Not being registered to vote in College Station is a missed opportunity for the student body. If every student voted in local elections, the student vote would be dominant. The total student enrollment at A&M is 64,300 and the whole population of College Station is 117,911. Doing some quick math, you will find the percentage of students who occupy College Station is roughly 54 percent, a somewhat staggering ratio.
Do you ever wonder why you don’t see more effort from local campaigns to reach the student body? This might occur for two reasons. First, local candidates know many students are not registered to vote here. Second, they don’t want you voting in the election in the first place. Recently the College Station City Council attempted to move the special election for city council place number four to Aug. 18. It seems rather odd that they would try to have the election moved to the week before classes were supposed to start. Of course, the strategy is that if classes haven’t started yet, fewer students have moved in, meaning fewer students could vote. That proposed policy leads me to believe that the motive for moving the election date may have been to suppress the student vote. In case you were wondering, all of the city counselors involved in that decision are running for re-election.
Some students may think that since they’ll only be here for four years, it does not matter if they vote here. As we all learned from the 2016 election, a lot can happen in four years – and that’s only on the national scale. In another recent article, I highlighted my opposition against a proposed ordinance by the College Station City Council. I did this because of the drastic negative effect it would have on the student population in terms of housing affordability. That is a decision, like so many others, that can be made in less than a year and would have lasting effects on students for the foreseeable future. If you think you are immune to any effects of local policy because you are a student who will be spending a relatively short time in College Station, you are mistaken.
The good news is, college students are starting to vote more. A recent study from Tufts University found the percentage of registered college student voters doubled from 2014 to 2018. To top that, another study found that 71 percent of college students plan on voting in 2020. For students, these numbers are something to get excited about. Now imagine that those numbers reflect the number of students who plan to vote in College Station elections. I am confident that, all of a sudden, people running for local offices would begin to take students a lot more seriously.
As students at A&M, we play a vital role in what makes College Station so great. The contribution students make ranges from the businesses the city attracts to the friendly “Howdy” that is so rooted in our culture. So why should that role stop at who is elected here? If all students voted in College Station, we would have elected officials who reflect our values and champion our beliefs. I urge all students to register to vote in this election. The deadline to do so is Oct. 5. Decisions are made by those who show up. If, as students, we were all to show up, imagine the changes we could make.