Cougs have power through their vote

The program has helped drive up election year turnout at WSU by 7% above national average



Only 16% of eligible voters in Washington aged 18-24 actually voted in this year’s elections

JOSIAH PIKE, Evergreen news co-editor

With the 2022 midterms just around the corner, the Cougs Vote program is attempting to keep students informed on how to participate in the political process.

Cougs Vote has been in operation for over 10 years, said Ben Calabretta, interim director of the Center for Civic Engagement.

“Essentially we want students to engage in our democracy, so Cougs Vote is an all-encompassing way to help students do that,” Calabretta said. “Voting’s a big part of it so we want to make sure students know how to vote.”

Cougs Vote is a non-partisan and non-government mandated program that does not promote political parties or candidates. The program is year-round and is not just operational for certain elections, he said.

“It’s not just every two years or every four years. Sometimes people fall into a trap where they only vote in every presidential election,” Calabretta said. “There’s elections every year and we try to educate on when elections are happening.”

Cougs Vote tries to keep their website up to date with resources and putting things out on social media, especially if they know that there is a registration deadline, he said.

Cougs Vote usually does not have hard number goals for what they hope to accomplish, but they have noticed an increase in turnout over the last few years, Calabretta said. WSU saw a 21% increase in voter turnout in 2020 as compared to 2016, and they would like to see a turnout of at least 55% this year.

Travis Ridout, professor of political science, said there may be more pressure on students to vote this year due to the turbulent rate of breaking news.

“Sometimes we do see increased turnout when the stakes are high, but having said that, younger people tend to vote at the lowest rate,” Ridout said. “Certain circumstances can encourage people to vote.”

Ridout said some of the reasons young people seem to vote at the lowest rate is because of habit and the complications of the electoral process.

“Sometimes the process can appear to be daunting. ‘How do I fill out this ballot? How do I register to vote?’ those sorts of things,” he said. “Sometimes young people don’t see the connection between voting and their own lives as much as someone who receives medicare.”

In this election cycle, both parties seem to be focusing on different issues to drive up turnout, Ridout said. Republicans are mostly focusing on inflation and the cost of living, while democrats are focusing on reproductive rights and the health of our democracy.

It is important for everyone, including young people, to be involved in the electoral process. Besides just voting, one way to do that is to take part in any local voter registration drives, he said.

Washington state makes it generally easy to vote, but for students, it can be a little difficult to vote by mail depending on the circumstances, Ridout said.

“One difficulty for students is they may be registered back home and the ballot is sent back home,” he said. “Sometimes it can get lost in that shuffle or is not seen timely.”

Ridout said it is important for students to make sure they get their ballots postmarked by election day and to either place their ballot in one of the voting drop boxes or mail it in.

Students at WSU have their own perspectives on whether or not they plan to vote themselves. Sophomore broadcasting major Phillip Mcdonald said he does not plan to vote at the moment.

“I guess I don’t feel I’m informed enough,” Mcdonald said. “Since I haven’t been reading much I feel like I shouldn’t.”

Mcdonald said he is interested in becoming more involved in the political process but he would first like to do some research about the issues.

“I definitely feel like there’s more pressure because of the polarization on both ends of the political spectrum,” he said.

Calabretta said usually midterm election years do not see as high a turnout as presidential election years, but this year there is potential that there will be a higher-than-average turnout.

“I think that everyone who’s able to vote should vote and everyone who’s able to should be registered to vote,” he said. “People have power through their vote.”