Today, UA students have the opportunity to vote in both an election for our Homecoming Queen and a special SGA Senate election for seats in both the College of Education and Graduate School. College elections may sometimes seem frivolous, unimportant, and unlikely to have any discernible effects on our lives as students. It is still essential that we take the time to participate in our school’s democratic processes. This editorial board implores you to vote today, and whenever you can in the future.
College elections are an essential training ground for democracy. It is through student government and other campus elections that we learn about ethical campaigning, voter motivation, special interests, and so many other crucial aspects of a democratic electoral process. It is here that we learn what it means for our voices to be heard and to choose the people we want to represent us and our interests.
Unfortunately, UA does not have a history of being a paragon of fair and transparent democracy. Too often, our elections have been shrouded by the malignant practices of corruption and collusion. We have seen time and time again Greek interests being promoted over all others due to the efficacy of the Machine’s unethical voting practices.
Nearly seventy percent of our campus does not belong to a primarily white, Greek letter institution, yet this majority still struggles to have its voice heard. Organizing such a large, heterogeneous group of students is extremely difficult, especially when competing against a system that is as powerful as it is corrupt.
That is why it is essential that all students take the time to vote in campus elections. Unjust practices in government thrive because of apathy; the Machine gets stronger every time they convince an independent student that their voice doesn’t matter, that there’s no way they could make a change. Many of these Machine officials then move on to work in local and state government comfortable with voter suppression and unethical practices.
Independent students, too, will enter our national democracy disillusioned by elections and government. If they couldn’t make a difference in college, how could they possibly affect state and federal officials?
But we can make a difference. Election turnout at UA normally hovers around 35-40 percent and has never surpassed 50 percent. Imagine the results that are possible if we increased voter turnout by even 20 percent. The supremacy of elite groups on campus could definitely be challenged if we all decided to take five minutes to log onto myBama and click a few boxes.
Voting always matters. It is a distillation of your influence, your voice, and your independence. Don’t let that go to waste. Being engaged with democracy doesn’t start after you graduate, it starts right now.