The United States is notorious for low voter turnout, but Western's campus wide Associate Student board of directors elections might just take the cake in voter apathy. 13.4% of students voted in last years spring held elections.
Erik Lowe, student-elected vice president of legislative and governmental affairs, did not have statistics on how many Western students are registered voters but said that judging from campus elections those numbers are probably also very low.
Lowe and Ben Murphy AS elections coordinator, hope to change that by melding indie rock mainstay Built to Spill with the Western Votes campaign.
“Apathy is a big problem among students,” Lowe stated.
They have teamed up with AS Productions Pop Music to bring Built to Spill, and Camper Van Beethoven, to Western at 7 p.m. this Wednesday in the multipurpose room. Tickets are $14 for Western students and $20 for general admission.
Built to Spill's sound can be described as “combining the weighty-ness and epic-ness of jam culture with the indie genre,” Hunter Motto, ASP Pop Music coordinator, described.
“[They] focus less on lyrics and more on instrumental and live performance,” he said.
The band has a “strong relationship with the Bellingham community” and are from Boise, Idaho, but are considered a Northwest band.
“The Pacific Northwest has taken them as their own,” Motto continued.
Camper Van Beethoven will be on its reunion tour and has a folky, country side to them as well as a jammy-ness and lots of extended songs, according to Motto. They also have a strong mid-west following and similarly to Built to Spill, their live performance is incredible, he said.
Lowe describes the idea of combining indie rock with voting an attempt to make voting cool.
“Where I grew up it wasn't cool to be politically involved or politically outspoken,” he said.
“A voting registration table will be at the concert,” Lowe said, as well as “drawings for free tickets to the concert and an announcement at the concert about registering to vote.”
Lowe described the goal of the campaign as attempting to raise voter registration, voter participation, and civic engagement in school, local and national elections. Also, he described the Western Votes campaign as starting last year as a small endeavor that included some on-campus registration booths and the first of the Western Votes t-shirts, which you may have seen being worn by various students around campus.
“I liked the idea but though it could be expanded a lot,” Lowe said.
Lowe said that the campaign is “trying to get the word out that voting is really important to student lives.” The campaign has created many more t-shirts for this year, which are going to be given out to prominent students on campus, in hopes their influence will reach others, Lowe said. The Built to Spill concert is one of its biggest attention grabbers of the year, Lowe said.
Murphy stated that the Western Votes campaign is pushing to get students registered before Oct. 6, as that is the registration deadline for the upcoming state and general elections.
“Voter registration is something I want to do continuing throughout the year. I want there to be as many booths as possible,” Murphy said.
They had a registration booth at the AS Info Fair in which over 100 students were registered, and another booth at last weekends VU Late Night.
“A lot more students should be voting in AS elections because the AS has a huge budget of over two million dollars, and it's funded by student service and activities fees. The board of seven directors has a lot of say in how that money is spent,” Lowe said.
The same is true of national elections, Lowe said.
“If we had no one in the legislature who cared about students then there would be no caps on tuition,” he said.
Lowe and Murphy suggested resources on how to become a more informed student voter.
“Talk to candidates when they are standing on campus holding signs, and talk to people in the AS,” said Lowe regarding school-wide elections.
For local elections Lowe finds the Bellingham Herald or the Whatcom Independent very useful. And for national elections he recommends vote-smart.org, a non partisan website that lists politicians' voting records. Murphy recommended http://secstate.wa.gov, a non-partisan web-site that has “all the information regarding voting and the profiles of candidates.”
So if you aren't registered check out the booth at the Built to Spill concert and enjoy a socially responsible good time. If indie rock is not your thing, you can print out a mail-in registration ballot at the site Murphy recommended above, and read about the upcoming ballot issues and candidates.