During the 2014 primary elections, Sonoma State University made national headlines for hosting an election to which absolutely no one showed up to, according to Sonoma State University Professor Richard Hertz. Despite having a population of more than 9,000 students, not a single student showed up to vote. Actions like such, have contributed to the belief that young people are apathetic about politics, according to Hertz.
However, according to polls, the current presidential race has grasped the attention of young voters so much, that in 2016 the U.S. may see a drastic change in their voting habits.
During the Iowa Caucus, it’s estimated that 53,000 caucus-goers were between the ages of 18 and 29, an all time high for both the Democratic and Republican parties. In the New Hampshire primary, the numbers were even higher, yet young voters are leaning towards one candidate in particular: United States Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders.
When asked about the much higher than average turnout from groups of young voters, Hertz said, “The honesty and integrity as well as the perception that he is not in the pockets of special interests is what has made so many young voters gravitate towards Sanders.”
In New Hampshire, Sanders won the primary election with a lead of 70 percent in the 18-29 age group. Hertz calls it the “cool grandpa factor.”
At Sonoma State, students are beginning to feel the “Bern.” Global Studies major, Crista Facciolla is currently volunteering with North Bay for Bernie, a Petaluma-based organization helping the Sanders campaign in the local area.
When asked why she is devoting her time for Sanders Facciolla said, “Bernie is for pay equity, currently [women] make 78 cents to a man’s dollar—that’s a huge difference.” But apart from attracting Sanders voters, North Bay for Bernie wants to encourage college students to vote.
“We want students to exercise their vote, they must express their right and take advantage of the opportunity,” said Facciolla.
But what about the other candidates? Hillary Clinton is still a viable candidate for the Democratic party, and on the Republican side there are still six candidates standing with Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio leading in the polls. According to Political Science major Amaijah Summers, “The amount of candidates we have is good; part of democracy is having multiple candidates to choose from,” The amount of candidates, however, is expected to decreaseafter Super Tuesday on March 1, when 15 states will either hold a caucus or primary.
Many students can agree the 2016 presidential race has shown to be a thrilling one. It’s important to remember the people of this country have the power to continue writing the plot of this story. Whether you are Republican or Democrat, for Sanders or for Trump, it’simportant to cast your vote as an engaged member of our political system.“This is the time to build the country we will have to live in for the rest of our lives, decide what you want for your future, don’t let a generation who might not be around to see the consequences decide for you,” said Summers.
Students can register to vote by logging into MySSU, clicking on Student Center, and then on “Register to Vote” under external links.