By Mia Morgillo
It is no secret that the past few years have been volatile in the world of politics. At the forefront, human rights advocacy has been a priority for Gen Z and Millenials when it comes to their actions at the polls. Younger generations in the U.S. have shown an increased interest in politics, voting, and democracy in recent years, and that has been reflected here at SUNY Plattsburgh as well.
In the 2020 presidential election, 56.3% of students voted, compared to 34.1% in 2016. This earned the college a Bronze Campus Award for turn-out numbers. John McMahon is an assistant professor of political science and teaches classes from general education, like Political Thought, to upper-level courses such as Feminist Political Thought.
“My goal is to have all of us be more reflective and be more thoughtful about the way we engage politically,” McMahon said.
He explained that with elections last year, he worked to debunk misinformation in regards to voting, specifically in regards to voter fraud and mail-in ballots.
“Across the board there was more mail-in voting because of COVID and that made voting more accessible, but also think more specifically for younger voters the 2020 election seemed to have incredibly high stakes,” McMahon said.
Mac-Oliver Lalanne, a senior political science major, personally took initiative to sign students on campus up to vote. While he recognizes how important it is to vote in presidential elections, he also emphasized the importance of voting at the local and state level.
“When it comes to state offices or local offices, people don’t really focus too much on it despite the importance state and local government have in people’s lives,” Lalanne said.
He explained that the federal government sets broad standards, but the state and local governments set specific standards. If someone wants to make change for their community, they have to be willing to turn out to these more local elections.
Lalanne has also said that the college needs to work on “how they want to promote students’ civil responsibilities.” He suggested increasing information on elections and voting in years other than the presidential elections, so students can solve local issues as well. Lalanne also discussed the importance of voting as a young person, and said “we all have shared responsibility that even inaction to vote will serve as a consequence for our future.”
For the bronze award won by the college, Assistant Director of Community Living James Sherman submits voter data as nomination. When it comes to young voters, Sherman had a powerful message.
“Politicians tend to listen to the constituency that votes the most, and currently the highest constituency tends to be boomer oriented,” Sherman said. “If students want politicians to listen to their causes, they need to vote in order for them to be seen as a threat to their stance if they want to get re-elected or not. If students voted in a higher amount, their wants and needs will be heard more and you’ll see more politicians want to represent student causes more.”