Student leaders express the importance of political involvement

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A voter fills out her ballot in the Warren Central High School gym on the afternoon of Nov. 3, 2020.

College-age students have historically brought the lowest voter turnout to U.S. presidential elections. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, half of the population aged 18-29 voted in the 2020 election, making it the highest year for voter turnout in that age group.

WKU Young Democrats

For Olivia Marshall, a senior political science major and president of the WKU Young Democrats, voting is the most effective way to be politically engaged.

“Voting is the easiest way to get your voice heard and actively participate in citizenship,” Marshall said. “Legislation affects every single part of our lives, whether you know about it or you don’t.”

Marshall said keeping up with groups like the Student Government Association and the Board of Regents is important so that students can stay informed on what policies are being passed that directly affect them.

“Bills that happen across the state that have to deal with budgeting may affect campus money,” Marshall said.

Her involvement in the Young Democrats has helped her become more politically active and has opened doors for internships and opportunities to work on political campaigns.

“By being able to be with a group of people who kind of have the same political views as you, you can then learn ways to get more engaged in local or state politics,” Marshall said. “It can help you fight for or against the bills that are happening.”

WKU College Republicans

Alex Rich, a junior political science major and chairman for the WKU College Republicans, said his involvement in the organization pushed him to be more politically involved.

Rich said a political science course he took initially awoke his interest in becoming more active in local politics.

“If I hadn’t taken that class, I wouldn’t be involved at all,” Rich said. “I think I wouldn’t have gotten some of the opportunities I’ve gotten, in terms of internships or job offers.”

Rich recommends that even if a student doesn’t think they would have an interest in a political organization, they may find an opportunity from it.

“At the very least, you open up multiple doors for yourself so you just have more choices,” Rich said. “I think that’s definitely been one of the benefits for me.”

Political division

Both Rich and Marshall believe that the U.S. is politically divided. Marshall feels that the division she sees today began during the Ronald Reagan administration and was heightened significantly after the 2016 election.

“Our government really was not set up in a way to have two major parties,” Marshall said. “The divide is also very much heightened by the media.”

Rich feels that the best way for division to be eased in the U.S. is for people on every side of the political spectrum to have open, civil conversations and understand one another’s perspectives. He also feels that social media has increased political division.

“I’m not innocent of getting mad at stuff I’ve seen on social media,” Rich said. “But it definitely doesn’t help anything.”

Getting involved

Both the WKU College Republicans and Young Democrats bring in local politicians as guests to talk to their respective members and both organizations currently boast over 100 members.

The College Republicans recently had Kelly Craft, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, speak at a meeting. Likewise, the Young Democrats recently welcomed William Compton, a U.S. congressional candidate, as a speaker at one of theirs.

The College Republicans meet every other week on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. in DSU. They typically set up tables weekly to spread the word about the organization.

The Young Democrats’ next meeting will be on Tuesday, Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. in DSU 2123. They typically hold meetings bi-weekly. The Young Democrats also recently joined the College Democrats of Kentucky, which is a state-wide organization.

The College Republicans can be found on Instagram @wkucrs and on Facebook at WKU College Republicans. The Young Democrats can be found on Instagram @youngdemswku and on Facebook at Western Kentucky University Young Democrats.

Projects Editor Jacob Latimer can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @jacoblatimer_.