Guest Post by Ginny Franks
"Voting is perhaps the most important duty we have as citizens of the United States. But it also is important to remember to vote for the area that we are shaping as students at this University. We are a part of this community, whether we're from Wilmington or Boone.
So register to vote.
It doesn't matter for whom or what you vote. Just do it. It's as simple as that."
If the State Board of Elections records are right (Disclaimer: they aren't always!), then Emma Burgin didn't vote.
For those of you who were surprised by the abysmal student turnout in municipal elections this year, all it takes is an internet connection and a computer to figure out why. Push aside the rhetoric of "students are our future", "this is our community" and "voting is perhaps the most important duty we have as citizens" spouted from the mouths (and emails) of our student leaders, and we wind up with nothing but the hypocritical repeat of the Paris Hilton "Vote or Die" incident, with Paris Hilton sporting the t-shirt but not the "I Voted" sticker. Or even bothering to register.
Telling people to vote is about as trendy as Emilio Pucci scarves and the Lacoste polos we're sporting, but apparently actually following through and, say, voting is a fashion faux pas for student leaders at UNC.
Again, according to the SBOE records (which I've been assured the busy news elves that make the DTH happen are hard at work verifying), the same people who repeatedly told students to vote didn't vote.
Seth Dearmin voted, but his Student Body Secretary, Neepa Mehta, and Student Body Treasurer, Daneen Furr, didn't. Neither did his "Legislative Link" chair Dane Anderson who, to my knowledge, isn't even registered in the state. We could only find 13 people from his cabinet of over 50 folks who voted in Chapel Hill. (And the "I voted at home!" line doesn't work, because we couldn't find anyone on his cabinet who voted at home either.) So 37 folks on Seth Dearmin's cabinet couldn't find their way to the polls (then again, these are the same folks who can't figure out who to contact about street lights.)
But there are more surprising folks who didn't vote (my "top offenders", if you will):
- Brandon Hodges, the President of the Black Student Movement
- Natalie Murdock, Political Action Committee Chair of Black Student Movement
- Kris Wampler, campus activist and "guy who sued UNC over the Koran book"
- Jordan Selleck, Chair of the College Republicans, who just ran for Chair of their statewide Organization
- J. Robert Austin , the Student Solicitor General
- About 15 members of UNC's Student Congress
- The 37 members of Seth Dearmin's Cabinet
- Derwin Dubose , campus pundit, former DTH Columnist, former Campus Y co-President who posted on his blog telling us to vote
And here are two more UNC officials that I hope have interesting reasons for not voting:
- Diane Bachman , former Town Council Candidate
- Bernadette Gray-Little, Chair of College of Arts & Sciences
If all of these student leaders would have voted, and if each of them would have gotten only 10 friends to vote, we would have more than doubled the student turnout.
Maybe the problem is that students "just don't care," but would it really take that much to make voting fashionable? A little innovation and motivation instead of the same bland pit-sitting and emails is all it would take to make voting more than just something nice to put on your Student Body President platform.
And if there are good reasons for not voting or a serious disconnect with students, why don't student leaders talk about that instead? A serious discussion about voting would be more valuable than the hypocritical "Go Vote!" message of "Do what I say, not what I do." There are a few excuses for not voting (but very few good ones), but I'm betting my money on the fact that most of the folks on my list don't have any excuse at all.
NOTE: Daily Tar Heel Editor Ryan Tuck did a great job turning his staff members out to the polls! Nearly all of his desk editors (from city to university to photos to sports!) turned out. So rest assured that the folks responsible for informing the campus didn't fall into the same "Rock the Vote!" trendy rhetoric that other student leaders did.
Ginny Franks is a senior Communications major at UNC-Chapel Hill from Fayetteville, NC. She has been active with UNC Young Democrats, UNC Student Government and the Carolina Athletic Association and now works with the UNC Association of Student Governments as VP of Legislative Affairs. She was one of the 300 students who voted in 2003 municipal elections and one of the 450 or so who managed to find Morehead Planetarium in 2005.