Election 2014-- The student vote

Oct 31, 2014

Election Day is Tuesday, and the candidates have spent a lot of time and money trying to win your vote. APR student reporter Elayne Smith reports on one group that’s learning how to flex its political muscle.

It’s lunch time at the Ferguson Student Center at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Many of these thirty six thousand young people are sweating their finals and wondering how the Crimson Tide football team will do against the L-S-U tigers this Saturday. But for others, these Tuscaloosa students equal votes…

“These students are able to now make—you know, be independent thinkers and make their own decisions,” says Reshad Hudson, president of the college Democrats Student Organization. “That’s why I think it’s important because you’re away from home. You don’t have that influence at home,” Hudson says. “So, all you have is your education knowledge and the knowledge that you’re gaining and to take that and go out to vote is far more important than sitting the sidelines.”

While their parents may cast ballots over taxes or other issues, students in Tuscaloosa may have their own cause to rally around. Uber is a ride-sharing service that appears popular with the college crowd. However, it didn’t get a warm welcome from the Tuscaloosa city council. Let’s run the clock back a little. Uber is like a taxi service where private cars take passengers where they want to go for a fee. Students like the idea and they banded together to promote it with Mayor Walt Maddox. However, the mayor and the city said no…

“I wouldn't feel safe putting my family into an Uber vehicle,” says Maddox. “So, if I don’t feel that way about my family, how can I allow any of our citizens to be put in situations in which they assume the city has cleared, which we haven’t.”

These city rules include vehicle inspections, insurance, a background check, and a business permit. Uber does not want to comply with these four codes.

“It’s the fun thing about, like, you know, being politically involved,” says Maverick Flowers who sees a silver lining to this cloud of controversy. He’s president of the College Republicans Student Organization. This group helped to push Uber as well. Flowers says issues like Uber can teach young voters they can speak out, even when they lose… “There’s always work to do. There’s always something you can do so, it’s better than just sitting idly by and just, you know, shaking your head at the news, or shaking your fist at the news. If you get angry, do something about it.”

Getting students politically active at the University of Alabama could be tricky. That’s because the latest freshman class is mostly from out of state. These students have to decide whether to register to vote in Alabama or at home. Will Stokes is executive director for the College Republicans Student Organization. He says more students should consider registering in Alabama…

“You live here for four years, you know. You spend nine months out of your year for four years here, you might as well take advantage of voting in local elections that are going to affect you more than wherever your parents live,” says Stokes. “So, I think it’s important for students to register to vote in Alabama.”

George Hawley is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama, and he has a different viewpoint.

“A lot of municipal polities won’t really have a substantive impact on their lives. So, I’m hesitant to say it’s important for all students to do so. Many of them have other things that are occupying their time, and voting may not be at the top of the list, and that’s okay.”

Whichever state students decide to register with, this political base could have strong impacts on local issues. If enough students decide that Uber or other local affairs matter, then Mayor Maddox may feel their influence.