Tuesday marks the eighth annual National Voter Registration Day.
Every year, thousands of national and community organizations coordinate events in an effort to raise awareness about the different ways and places to register to vote.
The 15th, 19th and 26th amendments in the United States Constitution give all citizens the right to vote without being discriminated against based on race, gender and age, respectively.
According to a report from the Census Bureau after the 2018 midterm elections, voters ages 18-29 increased by 79 percent since the last midterm election in 2014.
Melinda Mueller, political science professor and department chair, spoke about the increase in young voters.
“There are anecdotes, we don’t have research yet, that Generation Z is very engaged in politics, that they’re probably more knowledgeable than in past generations so that would suggest if you’re more knowledgeable, you’re more likely to vote,” Mueller said.
Shawda Stallings, a freshman pre-medicine major, said she feels young people should only vote if they’re well-informed.
“I’m on the fence on whether college students should vote or not,” Stallings said. “If you don’t keep up with political things, don’t vote because you don’t know the effect you can have.”
Social media has also influenced the newest generation of voters.
“We do think it’s possible that young people are getting a lot of their information from these (social media) sources,” Mueller said. “That might end up both informing them and encouraging them to vote. I think the concern or the question we have is whether or not the information they’re getting is biased.”
Mueller said there are many important reasons for people to go out and vote.
“When we live in a democracy, part of the social contract is that we are going to participate,” Mueller said. “When we don’t participate, we let other people make decisions for us. Most of us want to make choices about who our leaders are and what policies they pursue ourselves.”
Charlie Stewart, a freshman computer science major, said he believes it is a citizen’s responsibility to vote.
“College students should vote if they have the opportunity,” he said. “It’s part of being a citizen of the country and college is about learning and experiencing all the new things the world has to offer, like voting.”
Ireland Binkowski, a sophomore science education major, said she also believes it is important for college students vote.
“We’re not exactly adults but we’re up and coming so it’s good to get different and new opinions and aspects,” Binkowski said.
Graduate student Cloe Bourdages said the issues being discussed in the presidential debates can and will affect students in a variety of ways in the future.
“It’s important for college students to vote,” Bourdages said. “First of all, presidential candidates are talking about things like the cost of education and secondly, we live in society and should contribute to it in any way we can.”
Freshman fashion design and merchandising major Anna Smith said she believes voting makes change happen.
“College students should vote because we’re the future and we need to use our voices to create change,” Smith said.
In the state of Illinois, voter registration is available even online.
Students who come from different states or regions of Illinois will either need to vote at home or change their voter registration so they can vote in the Charleston area.
Mueller said students who have lived in Illinois for at least 30 days can declare residency and vote here.
Voter registration, presented by the Political Science Association, will take place Tuesday and Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union Food Court and on Oct. 1 and 3 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. outside of Coleman Hall.
Emilie Bowman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]