BY: ANTHONY AYALA
The first IUSB Honors talk of the semester was hosted by Elizabeth Bennion titled, “Mobilizing College Students to Vote.”
“You might as well live in an oligarchy, an aristocracy, perhaps even a dictatorship, if you are just going to sit at home and make decisions for you,” Bennion said as began her talk with a focus on the potential power that younger generations have.
According to statistics from April of 2018, 59 percent of eligible voters are a part of the younger generation. This includes Generation X, Millennial, and Post-Milliennial/Generation Z. Voters forty-five and under, thirty and under, and twenty-one and under don’t make up the majority of the votes even though they are the majority of the electorate.
The American Democracy Project is attempting to educate and create habits at IU South Bend to increase voter turnout. Bennion points out, even though voting rates are down, if a comparison was made of current generations and older generations at a similar age, older generations still outvoted.
“The best predictor to whether or not you will vote in an upcoming election is if you have voted in the past. It concerns many of us if we see low rates of participation because it is not going to be the case that you automatically start participating when you get older,” said Bennion.
Bennion has taught political science at IU South Bend since 1999. She teaches American politics with an emphasis on political behavior. Bennion is the founding director of IUSB’s American Democracy Project and she serves as the Director of voter services and education for the League of Women Voters of the South Bend area.
Bennion is the host of WNIT’s “Politically Speaking” radio show and serves on the board of the Indiana Debate Commission. Bennion is a nationally recognized expert on civic education and political engagement. She has won numerous awards for teaching and service to the campus, local community, but also nationally Bennion has published extensively and is currently working on several publications that report the results of a national survey of student leaders and a series of voter registration field experiments.
The American Democracy Project has been trying to increase voter participation through an online guide and a series of debates. The online vote guide, accessible at vote411.org, is collaboration with The South Bend Tribune and the League of Women Voters of the South Bend Area. With this guide, a prospecting voter can compare candidates side by side. The American Democracy Project has also began hosting debate viewings for all local races at student housing. They provide food and drinks to help people become informed.
The American Democracy Project encourages all residents to visit Indiana Voters.com to fine their voting place, hours and who is on the ballot.