Student voice in politics

The youth vote, something politicians are endlessly and awkwardly pandering for, can have a substantial impact on elections.

Having more student involvement in local government, primarily through voting locally, is one way to encourage politicians to consider student interests when they appoint department heads and make budgetary decisions.

According to Census data, the population in Whitman County was 48,177 in 2015.

That same year, the WSU Office of Institutional Research reported that just over 20,000 students were enrolled at the Pullman campus alone.

With those numbers, that demographic could significantly affect county government elections.

That’s why we, as an editorial board, suggest that all in-state students register to vote in Whitman County while attending WSU.

Though the average college student will spend only four to five years in Pullman, participating in local elections will have a long-lasting impact on current and incoming WSU classes.

It also gives students a greater voice than they might have on the west side of the state.

In terms of population density, King, Pierce and Snohomish counties make up a little more than 50 percent of the state’s population, while Whitman County makes up .6 percent.

There are many elected positions that come up for a vote every year which directly impact students’ experiences in Pullman.

As a public university, WSU receives state and federal funding. State funding provided 17 percent of the university’s revenue in 2015, according to the financial report.

In 2006, state funding made up 30 percent of WSU’s revenue, more than any other source of revenue, but the university’s total operating expenses also increased by more than $300 million from 2006 to 2015.

State legislators decide how much funding to allocate to public universities each fiscal year, and having students vote on the local state legislators who would work with those budgets might change the amount of funding WSU receives.

Many local politicians run unopposed, such as District 9 Sen. Mark G. Schoesler, Rep. Joe Schmick and two county commissioner positions, Art Swannack and Dean Kinzer.

Self-titled Berniecrat Jennifer Goulet is running against Republican incumbent Mary Dye for Congressional District 9.

Dye was appointed in 2015 after former Rep. Susan Fagan resigned due to allegations of ethical violations. Dye beat recent WSU graduate Hailey Roemer in the primaries.

In 2015, Whitman County had 20,520 registered voters with a turnout rate of 44 percent, according to election data.

This is a decrease from 2012, the last presidential election year, with 21,272 registered voters and a turnout rate of nearly 82 percent.

If the majority of WSU students registered to vote in Whitman County and turned out for the elections, their vote would rival that of longtime residents.

The deadline to change an address or register to vote is Oct. 10. Voting opens Oct. 21.