Over the course of the 2022 election season, two Saginaw Valley State University students have been working to encourage increased college-aged voting at the state capitol.
Diva Patel, political science and biology junior, and Nikolas Baker, political science sophomore, were chosen to participate in the 2022-2023 Collegiate Student Advisory Task Force alongside 23 other college students from across the state.
The program was founded under the secretary of state in 2019, but this year’s task force is only the second to serve due to COVID restrictions. According to the task force’s web page, the program is designed for “students who have passion, enthusiasm and experience in voter engagement and civic participation.” Patel found the task of encouraging voting amongst her peers to be rewarding.
“The most exciting part of this experience is the opportunity to get young voters energized and motivated to go to the polls and cast their votes,” she said.
Baker had a similarly positive experience while working on the task force.
“I was most excited to be able to connect and collaborate with students from universities across Michigan,” he said.
Patel detailed why it is so important to encourage voting amongst this specific demographic:
“It is so important to ‘get out the vote’ when it comes to college-aged voters for several reasons,” she said. “First, it is crucial for young voters to be active participants in our democracy. Second, there are so many issues that are on the ballot during every election that can affect change for years to come. Third, even if you are not involved in politics, politics is involved with you: it affects our education, jobs, personal lives, and even things like the air we breathe and the water we drink. College-aged voters need to vote to make their voices heard on the issues they care about and those that directly affect them and their friends and family.”
Baker emphasized the disproportionate impact that election results can have on young people in the long run:
“[College-aged voters] turn out to vote at lower rates and the decisions made in elections will generally have the biggest impact on young people,” he said. “While it is important that everyone engages in the democratic system, young people will live with the effects of these decisions far longer than the older generations.”
Both students found their experience gained at SVSU to be helpful while working on the task force.
“SVSU has provided me with so many opportunities to prepare me for this role,” Patel said. “With my involvement in Registered Student Organizations at SVSU, I have strengthened my teamwork and collaboration skills to accomplish various objectives. I have also extensively developed my professionalism and networking skills, which I know will help me long after graduating.”
Baker said his work through Cardinals Vote was especially helpful during his time in Lansing.
“My role with Cardinals Vote through the Community Engagement office has given me a lot of very important experience within the field of promoting civic engagement among students,” he said. “I have also learned a lot about promoting respect and civility in a field that can often be plagued with divisive and hateful rhetoric.”