Exclusive clubs are fun. Members get their own inside jokes, their own handshakes and most importantly, the fun of excluding people and getting that warm, elitist feeling that comes from looking down on others. That’s why I am proud to exclude most of you all from the venerable People-Who-Voted-November-3rd Society, because statistically, dear reader, you are almost certainly not a member of this club.
Last year 3,833 people voted on campus. This year only 171 people took the 20 minutes needed to cast a vote for the district attorney of Philadelphia, as well as a host of other offices. And if you lived in Harrison or Harnwell College House, the time was even less — If you didn’t notice, the polling place was in your building. In fact, according to College senior Annassa Corley, president of Penn Leads the Vote, 60 percent of registered voters live in on-campus housing, meaning that a majority of us are fewer than 10 minutes away from our polling places. While I’m not one to weigh blame, there’s even less of an excuse here.
College junior and Penn Dems President Jordan Levine offered a number of reasons why student turnout was so low: “Penn has a transient population; people perceive these elections to be unimportant. There is also not enough publicity.” All these are reasonable explanations for why turnout was so low. None of them are excuses for not voting.
1.) Transience. Many Penn students only call Philadelphia their home for four years before moving on to grad school, law school or a particularly comfy couch in their parent’s basement. This naturally limits student’s efforts to make changes and improvements. The counterargument to this is that no effort is required — You have to walk past the polling place to get to class. Penn voters have the best election opportunity in the world. Just walk into Houston, pull the lever, and you have a bulletproof excuse for skipping the first 10 minutes of chem lab.
2.) Unimportant. In this most recent election we elected a new district attorney, Seth Williams. Our previous DA, Lynne Abraham, had been in the job since 1991 and since that time had been applying the death penalty with such zeal that she was labeled “the Deadliest DA” by Time Magazine in 1995. Now, with a new DA, and he could single-handedly be setting legal policy on such issues for years to come. That is as important an issue as exists, and we helped effect this change. Well, me and 170 other people on campus.
3.) Publicity. Most of you probably know the date of every one of your finals, where the next good party is and what line you have to use to get your parents to send more money. How hard is it to remember Election Day? And if you did forget, Penn Leads the Vote was out on Locust on both the day before and on Election Day. Beyond that, voting isn’t something that should have to be advertised or sold to you. It is your civic duty, not a gently used Ford Taurus.
Apathy actively harms the University and its ties to the city. If you look at DP articles from 2007 (the last comparable election), politicians went on the record stating that University City was an electoral wasteland. Tom Knox, a former candidate for mayor, said flat out that Penn students don’t vote. If there is one thing you never see in politics, it is a politician insulting the electorate. We are too many votes to take this kind of sass from politicians.
Corley stressed that there must be “different expectations for different elections,” and this is absolutely true. I don’t expect the same turnout for DA that the presidential election got. But it says something about the lack of involvement on campus when fewer people vote than attend Math 104 — even on a non-quiz day.
Sam Bieler is a College sophomore from Ridgewood, N.J. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.Comments powered by Disqus
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