Lawrence University prides itself on its ability to mold students into informed citizens and active community members. Lawrence students demonstrated this through volunteerism on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. That type of community engagement both on and off campus suggests that Lawrentians can positively impact the city of Appleton.
In one area, though, Lawrence students are especially uninvolved: voting. Despite an apparent desire for involvement, studies show that Lawrentians participate in local elections far less than undergraduate students at other academic institutions. Lack of involvement in local elections may have a variety of reasons.
Many Lawrentians view Appleton as only a temporary home and may have greater attachment to issues in their home states. Due to the hectic nature of Lawrence life, students may not think they have room in their schedules to keep up with local politics.
Furthermore, The ballot measures discussed in Appleton politics often seem less interesting than national issues and Donald Trump’s latest antics. Wisconsin municipal elections are for the most part nonpartisan, which may discourage students who vote purely along party lines.
All of these factors contribute to Lawrentians’ lack of participation in municipal elections, but they are not insurmountable obstacles. There are far greater reasons for Lawrentians to vote in local politics.
Community progress is important for campus politics. This is especially evident for the marginalized students, for whom Appleton remains unsafe and exclusionary. Even seemingly mundane local issues, such as Appleton’s budget and parking policy, affect the Lawrence community in a tangible manner.
Voter apathy demonstrates our own participation in a system that distances Lawrence from the surrounding city. Appleton’s small size and low voter participation shows the significant impact that Lawrence can have in these races.
Lawrentians have shown that they can volunteer, work and protest in the greater Appleton area. We need to reinforce this involvement through participation in municipal elections.
In Outagamie County’s Spring 2015 election, 21,474 ballots were cast out of 131,483 registered voters. However, only 535 came from our district, and most of those voters were not Lawrentians. If Lawrence students want to affect political change in Appleton, we have the numbers to ensure that our voices are heard. We just need to show up.
This year, Appleton’s mayoral election will fall on Tuesday, April 12. Let’s rock the vote.