Why some Georgia State students are sitting out this election?

Photo by @element5digital on Unsplash.com

The narrative that comes out during election season is that young people don’t vote. Whether that be for laziness or a lack of faith in the current candidates, young voters are historically the smallest group of the voting population, and data from the New York Times supports this. With candidates Stacey Abrams and Raphael Warnock visiting the school, Georgia State University still has a population of students sitting this election out. Here’s what these young people who aren’t voting are saying about their choice: 

“I just don’t see a reason to. I don’t believe in our government. I think that the systems they have in place, make it to where even if you vote and even if the person you want to get elected gets elected, nothing’s going to happen.” – Timothee 

“I’m a permanent resident, so I can’t vote in local elections. I can only vote in presidential elections… I’m not a citizen… but at the same time, it affects me too, because I’m living here so I kinda think it’s pointless that I can’t vote for local elections.” – Ana Oliveira 

“I don’t feel like there’s anybody out there that really represents my values that I have so far. Nobody really has caught my interest… I want to vote for somebody that kind of rolls with the times.” – James James 

“I think I haven’t really had enough time to research as much as I wanted to into it.  And the semester has just been really so busy for me so I wasn’t able to look at it.” – Althea Llena 

“Just didn’t think of it. ‘Cuz the people around me, nobody really vote, you know? … I just follow them.” – Joe 

There were two underlying currents in all the students interviewed. They felt like they weren’t represented by either candidate or they didn’t have enough time. The early voting window was opened from Oct. 17 to Nov 4. GSU set up voting booths on campus so that Fulton county registered voters could vote. The non-voters also had some words on this effort and what GSU can do more: 

“…I would advise them to maybe spread a little bit more information about it and… make people more aware of it happening really.” – Althea Llena

“ Well, I spoke to people on campus to register because they were going around.  And then I never got any information from them at all.  I gave, like my email, my address and everything.  Well, and then it [the date] was like really close to the point where I couldn’t register. Then it passed… So I wasn’t able to at the end.” – Sophie Hart

“I don’t think there’s any way to…incentivize because I feel like with the current state we’re in right now… there needs to be a big change. But the fact that young Americans like us don’t recognize stuff… is kinda a bad thing.” – Saran Punmaneeluk 

Young non-voters aren’t a monolith. James doesn’t believe that either party truly represents the policies he supports. He’s trying to find a place to lay his head, he can’t afford his rent. James is living paycheck to paycheck while dealing with the pressure of student loans and doesn’t think that voting will truly support his values. 

What about Llena, who didn’t have enough time within her busy schedule to sit down and do the research to make the most informed decision about this election?

Hart fought to cast her ballot in, but with poor communication from the organizers, missed the early voting sites that were on campus. Difficulties with casting ballots have been recorded with SB 202 put into place, a Republican-backed bill that restricted ballot boxes to just office hours and criminalized handing out water to voters. 

Young non-voters aren’t just sitting out because they’re uninterested. Sure, some of them are. But others are fed up with the current justice system. Some of them can’t find time to carve away to vote in an election. It’s not just one issue that’s causing young nonvoters to sit out in critical elections, it’s a multitude of them.