Combatting Student Apathy at Georgia State University
My first semester as a Vote Everywhere Ambassador at Georgia State University (GSU) turned out to be an incredible learning lesson. Since Vote Everywhere is new to GSU, I thought it was a good idea to create a program that gave me the opportunity to educate students and incentivize them to become more civically engaged. I gave presentations about the life of Andrew Goodman and the importance of voting. I visited a total of 10 classrooms and registered over 100 students. I also assisted 200 registered voters with checking their statuses, helping nearly 20 students realize there was an error on their application or their listed address needed to be updated. I thought the program would be a great way to register as many students as possible but I quickly found that voter registration is only a fraction of the issues student voters face at GSU.
“I don’t want to vote for many reasons- the first being that one vote doesn’t decide anything. My second reason is I don’t usually agree wholeheartedly with any presidential candidate. I think most candidates have alright ideas, but their plans to implement those ideas are unrealistic. When I listen to a candidate’s policies or opinions, I usually think if their goal is achievable and not many are. My opinion on politicians is as clear as the sky on a sunny day. I believe they are all bark and no bite.” –Anonymous Georgia State University Student
My presentations included four options for students to participate. They could register to vote, check their voting status, write down the names of their local and state representatives, or write a paragraph on why they did not want to vote. Ten students selected the 4th option, and their responses really touched me.
“I do not want to register to vote because I am not educated on the candidates. One vote can make a huge different. I do not want to vote for the wrong person.” – Anonymous Georgia State University Student
The ten students taught me that I created a platform to register and educate students on the institution of voting but I neglected to include tools that the students could use to educate themselves on the issues they care about, learn how to get involved, and understand why their voice makes a difference. I realized that I needed to work to help them understand the importance of voting in every election. Regardless of their political leaning, youth should feel empowered and excited about hitting the ballot booth, not apathetic, confused, or wary.
“Maybe one day, once I’ll become wise enough to really understand politics, I will register to vote or become more active in politics. Unfortunately for now, as a college student, I have no interest in voting.” – Anonymous Georgia State University Student
America is in a stage of great change. There is a national dialogue about issues such as states’ rights, policing, education, and healthcare. The solutions lie in the hands of the people we elect. Change cannot happen unless there are representatives on both state and local levels who want to facilitate it. The choices we as Americans make in these upcoming years could define our generations and that’s why everyone’s voice needs to be heard. This is what Andrew Goodman stood for as a young college student in the 1960s and it’s what I and my Vote Everywhere Team hope to inspire in every student voter at Georgia State University.
About the Author
Evan Malbrough is currently a student and Vote Everywhere Ambassador at Georgia State University, where he majors in Public Policy with a focus on Governance and a minor in Cello Performance. In the summer of 2017, Evan became a research fellow for the Department of Defense under the Assistant Secretary of Defense for readiness. Evan serves as the 2017-2018 president of the Young Democrats of Georgia State University. He also works as a professional Cellist in the Atlanta area.