On November 4 it will finally come to an end. The year and a half of campaigning and convincing; all of the ads, speeches and rhetoric; the mudslinging, press conferences and non-stop commercials. Tuesday it will all come to a halt, if only for a day, when our nation picks a new president.
The only thing left to do is vote. It's the most important thing you'll do this year.
If you have yet to mail in your ballot, don't panic. Western Votes and Students for Civic Engagement (SCE) have you covered. They will be in VU 714 with ballot boxes from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 3 and 4, keeping track of the number of ballots they receive. Once you've put your ballot in the box the rest will be taken care of.
SCE president Nikki Brown is optimistic about the expected student turnout.
“We're hoping for a record turnout this year, especially among students and young people,” she said. “Having a huge number would be great.”
Sarah Ishmael, AS Vice President for Legislative and Governmental Affairs, feels that Western Votes' attempt to register as many students as possible was a great success.
“To consider all the people that have registered and changed their address on campus, I believe we'll have met our goal of getting students more involved,” she said.
“Without the volunteers that organized booths, tables and registered others we would have been unsuccessful,” Ishmael said. “All the credit goes to our volunteers.”
Ishamael said that 90 percent of the student body turning in a ballot would be a “dream number.”
“As long as you have voted, you've been counted. If we didn't have differing opinions this country would be a different place,” Brown said. “By choosing not to vote you're giving up the right to complain.”
But with all of the enthusiasm of groups like Western Votes and SCE, a question arises. Why vote anyway?
Courtney Steffy, head Coordinator of the Obama Vikings, an AS club started by supporters of Barack Obama, says she gets that question often.
“My first question back to them is, ‘What matters to you?'” Steffy said. “Most people that don't vote have opinions but they don't believe their vote counts. But when elections like the 2004 Washington state Governor's race come within a few hundred votes, it's obvious that every vote counts.”
According to AS President Erik Lowe, voting goes beyond representing yourself. It's a question of how much say you would like to have in your country.
“Why would I not vote? That's the question I pose,” Lowe said. “There are so many issues that matter to everyone and so many important decisions made by a select group of people that without informed citizen voters, things could turn bad very quickly.”
Lowe feels that voting is a way for students to empower themselves.
“It's important for students to vote because otherwise they have no voice,” Lowe said. “If you're not someone that cares enough to spend an hour researching candidates and voting to get your voice heard, the politicians aren't going to start listening to you later.”
Lowe also reminded students that AS Elections are coming later this year. He hopes that the enthusiasm students have shown for getting out to vote will carry over to spring quarter.
Last spring had the highest voter turnout in 15 years, according to AS Elections Coordinator Ben Murphy. Murphy believes that last year's trend will continue as students maintain political involvement beyond Nov. 4.
“Engagement shouldn't stop at the ballot box,” Murphy said.
Almost 2,800 of the 13,504 enrolled students (about 20.7 percent) voted in last year's AS elections. Murphy believes that Western can get that number up to at least 30 percent.
“I look at each year and build off of it,” he said. “Last year was quite successful in terms of turnout and this year, we'd like to build on that.”
Though students cannot sign up to run for an AS Board position until March, Murphy says students can get involved in AS clubs or committees and make an immediate impact. To view a list of the programs and clubs offered by the Associated Students, check out http://as.wwu.edu/clubs.
Live coverage of the elctions will be available on CNN, FOX news, MSNBC, PBS, CSPAN, ABC News, and CBS News most of election day. Each of the channels will also run a special broadcast starting at 7:00 p.m. EST. CNN, MSNBC, and FOX will also be running live streams online.