Young Democrats and College Republicans rally student voting
By James Gingerich
Young people are all too often the demographic with the lowest voting rates, showing apathy at the mere mention of the political process, but in this campaign season, there are two Northern Arizona University (NAU) organizations working to change that.
The Young Democrats and College Republicans understand the difficulties of appealing to student voters.
“I think a lot of students are really disillusioned with the whole process of politics,” said Allaire Conte, a sophomore psychology major and Young Democrat. “A lot of students are apathetic because they don’t think their vote counts.”
Just four years after an election that saw one of the largest youth turnouts in recent history, familiar barriers still stand between young voters and the polling booth.
Jared Gorshe, sophomore political science and criminal justice major and chairman of the College Republicans, feels the political process remains unattractive to some students.
“I think people see politics as a nasty game and perhaps they don’t want to get involved in it,” Gorshe said. “What [the College Republicans] do is help young people realize that it’s not always a fight.”
How they go about accomplishing this appears to be the real art of their job.
“People tend to be confused as to what the laws are in regards to voting,” said Katlyn Sulltrop, a senior political science major and president of the Young Democrats. ”They think that it is too difficult. Right now, we’re focusing on trying to make sure students know where their polling place is [so we can] help them to get an early ballot.”
Along with registering students, both organizations are working hard to promote their parties’ platforms to potential voters, asserting they’ll help anyone register, but often not without giving a plug for the ideals that brought them to be so politically active.
“Everyone has concerns,” Gorshe said. “Most concerns can be broken down into a political arena. If people have something they care deeply about, there is usually a policy that can affect that [issue] negatively or positively.”
Appealing to specific issues and candidates is a practice both clubs rely on to cultivate interest in students.
“Volunteering for whichever candidate you support can really make a difference,” Conte said. ”That’s how movements get started.”
Translating that enthusiasm into practice can be hard work, especially when these members have to balance their activism with the normal rigors of student life.
“When we table, we try to do it for a few days at a time,” Gorshe said. ”We try and get as many people out there so we can connect with students. We’ve been tabling a lot more and making ourselves more noticeable and available to the student body.”
Along with making their existence known on campus, both clubs invest time at political headquarters around Flagstaff.
“We’ve been advertising and volunteering with campaigns around town,” Sulltrop said. “[We've been] encouraging students to get out and participate, and making sure they know who the candidates are.”
Larger organizations have played vital roles in both the partisan and nonpartisan efforts of the College Republicans and Young Democrats. The pair have been participating in the ASNAU’s endeavor to mobilize potential student voters; the two clubs have a strong relationship with larger student organizations based around their parties.
Despite the stereotype of the apathetic youth, those students who do take an active role in politics remind most what it means to care about the future of a community.
“Participation is important because we’ve been given such a unique opportunity in this democracy,” Gorshe said. “No matter what people think, every vote counts.”