Groups of students lined up in Jeffords Center with licenses in hand. They approached the table surrounded by red, white, and blue balloons and made a decision that has the ability to change the nation. They registered to vote.
Castleton State College is holding a month-long campaign to increase awareness about how powerful the right to vote is. “Castleton Vote 2012,” is organized by professors Carrie Waara, Sanjukta Ghosh, and Rich Clark with assistance from Crispin White at the Center for the Support & Study of the Community and Associate Academic Dean Yasmine Ziesler.
Students in their respective classes are responsible for coordinating events including voter registrations, film screenings and debate watch parties.
Waara says that the purpose of the campaign is to engage students in politics, which professors hope in turn will allow for the American Democracy Project to take roots at CSC.
But Waara notes a big difference in this election from 2008, and she’s not alone. CSC students are feeling the difference too.
“This new voting group doesn’t value their vote because they are so anti-government,” she said.
It didn’t appear that way in 2008 though. College students throughout the country came together for a common cause; they wanted change. And they saw that in Barack Obama. Four years later, the same people who voted in 2008 have lost that energy. College students came out last election, but will they show up on Nov. 6?
According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, adults ages 18 to 29 make up 24 percent of the voting population, or roughly 46 million eligible voters. Fifty-one percent of these young American’s voted in 2008, but experts wonder if they will this time.
Tom Conroy, a communication professor at Castleton, isn’t quite sure, but he hopes so.
“You got some big problems to engage in, don’t you? Big, significant problems,” he said. “You know when you get your diploma you’re not going to just slide through life.”
There were reasons to be excited in 2008.There was a different energy. By the end of the Bush era, his approval rating dropped to between 25 and 37 percent.
“Especially students that lean a bit liberal, it seemed exciting; whether it was a woman or an African-American, it seemed as though something could change,” said Conroy.
Jeremy Odena agrees.
“I think the whole idea of the history behind a black president is what was exciting,” he said.
Students have different reasons why they aren’t as supportive of Obama this time around.
“I think people probably feel a little cheated,” said student Courtney Bates. “I think with the last election, there was just so much excitement. Now, they’re just over it.”
On Oct. 3, Castleton Vote 2012 hosted its first debate watch party which attracted 36 students.
“The debate party renewed my faith,” said Waara. “I couldn’t believe the number of students who came up to me personally and thanked me for doing this.”
Until Oct. 30, students can register to vote in the library or at booths set up by Castleton Vote 2012.
With the election quickly approaching, where will you be on Nov. 6?