North Texas Daily

It’s time to encourage and embrace young voters in Denton

It’s time to encourage and embrace young voters in Denton

It’s time to encourage and embrace young voters in Denton
February 14
00:13 2019

At their Feb. 5 meeting, the Denton City Council decided to postpone the issue of adding more polling locations for city elections until March 5 on the grounds that two council members may have a conflict of interest — the council determined councilwoman Deb Armintor, a UNT professor, and councilman Paul Meltzer, spouse to a UNT professor, may be tempted to act in self-interest in the fight to procure a full-fledged polling location on UNT campus.

These two council members aren’t up for re-election this year — their spots are secured until 2020. So if the two have no reason to round up groups of UNT students and march them to the potential campus polls to ensure their re-election, what else could constitute conflict of interest on this issue? Moreover, couldn’t any one of the council members, current or future, call upon the resources of their moonlighting occupations and sway the people there to vote for them?

Isn’t that just campaigning?

Denton County Republican officials voiced support for the expansion of polling locations  — something Denton Democrats claim they have been urging for some time, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle. Bear in mind that county leaders did not pass a motion, adjust the policies and enact change to the polling locations. They just announced they would “be open” to the idea.

During the 2018 midterms, the university had a polling location available on Election Day, but not during the early voting period. Older generations deride younger ones for low voter turnout, yet they are the ones in federal and municipal government positions with the ability to unscramble and improve voting procedures and spur youth engagement.

When young people are encouraged to engage in community politics, their interest in local and national affairs is ignited and the entire community is benefitted. A polling location on the UNT campus for municipal elections could open a door to implementing a campus ballot location for early voting. Everything begins at the local level.

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, political engagement among 18- to 29-year-olds jumped from an estimated 21 percent in 2014 to 31 percent in 2018. The stereotype that young people are self-obsessed, disinterested and indifferent toward politics seems to be vanishing as the youth of America comes to terms with the power they wield as well as the shaky state of the nation.

Forms of civic involvement such as voting, volunteering and demonstrating during adolescence are positively associated with higher income and levels of education attained later in life, according to a study published in a journal by the Society for Research in Child Development. The study also found a favorable correlation between youth voting and volunteerism and subsequent mental health.

If we know civic engagement is good for young people (and in turn, the entire country), why aren’t we doing more to foster it?

Those against the notion of enhancing UNT voters’ ability to vote in elections claim there’s no need for a campus polling location because there’s multiple other ballots across town. The issue with this is the fact that many UNT students are carless — freshmen are often advised not to bring their cars due to the city’s parking crisis. Sure, there are buses to polling locations but voters who live on-campus without cars should not have to accommodate their vote around the different schedules of the bus system, their classes and their place of work.

Voting processes are convoluted enough — there is a narrow list of acceptable forms of ID, rules for attire, specific times on certain days you can vote and the polling locations may change based on when you come. To make it worse, the protocols are different across elections with various enforcements depending on where you go.

The more we can simplify and standardize voting customs, the more people will be empowered to engage in politics and have their voice heard. And the we more energize and strengthen our trust in the country’s youth, the better off we’ll all be.

Featured Illustration: Chelsea Tolin

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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