The Governmental Affairs Committee of Northwest’s Student Senate is enacting a plan it hopes will register 65% of Greek Life members and 50% of the Northwest’s campus population to vote by the end of the semester.
So far, though, only three Greek organizations on Northwest’s campus — Alpha Sigma Alpha, Tri Sig and Sig Tau Gamma — have agreed to help the Governmental Affairs Committee’s efforts, Student Senate Committee Chair Benjamin Kutz said.
For the committee, the plan is a noble cause with an ambitious goal. But in the scope of today’s political climate, the need for student voter turnout is at an all-time high. More than three Greek organizations need to join the effort in registering student voters. More than 65% of the Greek-affiliated population needs to vote in the upcoming elections. And most importantly, more than 50% of students on campus need to register.
In the 2016 general election, which saw Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton by more than 500,000 votes in Missouri, 66.56% of registered voters turned out for the election, according to an unofficial voter turnout report from Missouri’s Secretary of State office. In Nodaway County, though, that percentage was higher, with 9,458 of the county’s 13,037 voters showing up to the polls in November 2016, according to the same document.
The problem, though, is not getting voters to show up for general elections that take place within presidential cycles. In 2018, even with one of Missouri’s two senate seats at stake, only 58.23% of the state and 59.29% of the county showed up to vote in the November election, according to the Secretary of State.
The turnout for local elections, where the student voice has the most direct potential to be heard in Nodaway County, is even smaller. Only 774 Maryville voters weighed in on the Use Tax ballot initiative in April of last year, a measure that passed in a 452-322 vote, according to The Maryville Forum.
In April 2016, an eighth-of-a-cent tax increase needed to build the Mozingo Conference Center passed 588-583, according to The Forum. Five votes decided an election that affected an entire town, five votes that City Manager Greg McDanel said last April, when informing students on the Use Tax measure, would not have come without student participation in the election.
There are more than 7,000 students enrolled at Northwest. The effect those students could have on a local election — if they would just take 10 minutes and register to vote in Nodaway County, the community where most students live for at least eight months a year — would be immeasurable. Students alone, if they all rallied around one candidate or ballot measure in Maryville, could change the outcomes of entire elections.
The deadline to register to vote in Missouri’s March 10 presidential primary is Feb. 12. Find 10 minutes between now and then and ensure your voice is heard.