Students from across campus gathered last week for a non-partisan effort to register Cornellians to vote in advance of Friday, the New York State deadline to register to vote in primary elections. By manning voter registration tables in convenient locations around campus, the project’s architects endeavored to reduce the complexities of registering to vote and increase civic engagement among members of the University community. These efforts, although early before the election more than a year away, help make democracy more accessible to students on campus, particularly in advance of an election season set to have momentous implications for higher education.
As the 2016 election approaches, students across the United States face a growing number of hurdles — tuition is soaring, student debt is at an all-time-high and federal Pell Grants are in the crosshairs. As the announced candidates offer the American public distinct reform policies and visions for the future of higher education, it is imperative — now more than ever — that students have a say in the democratic process. But nearly eight years since the 2008 elections delivered the second-largest youth voter turnout in American history, students across the nation face persisting systemic barriers and chronic difficulties in registering to vote. By helping students to register to vote in the 2016 primaries and the following election and providing accessible information about the candidates to Cornellians, the voter registration drive is making headway towards removing those difficulties and renewing a much-needed spirit of civic participation on campus.
A successful democracy requires participation by all of its citizens — including students. If this crucial voting bloc does not turn out in 2016, students have less of a voice shaping the future of higher education policy in the United States. We at The Sun applaud the voter registration drive not just for its tangible success in bringing Cornellians into the fold of the upcoming elections, but for its bold vision of giving students a say on national issues that matter to them. As this important election season kicks into full swing, the campus community must take further steps towards vigorous student participation in the political process.