Low election turnout shows insufficient political awareness

The opportunity to vote is one that UK students should never allow to pass up, no matter how big or small the election might be.

Many students were given this opportunity on Tuesday when Kentucky held its statewide elections. Unfortunately, low voter turnout across the commonwealth, including right here in Fayette County, showed that many people had little interest in exercising this fundamental right.

Only 37.1 percent of registered voters across the state voted in Tuesday’s election, according to the Kentucky State Board of Elections. This is the second-lowest turnout that Kentucky has seen for a gubernatorial race in the past 24 years. It’s a disturbing reminder that many people feel disenchanted with the current political system.

Voting, however, is a privilege that should never be taken for granted, and UK students should proudly exercise this right.

Last week, freshmen at UK were given the opportunity to participate in their first Student Government election by voting for this year’s freshman senators.

About 2,000 students, or roughly 50 percent of the 2007-08 freshmen class, participated in the election, according to a Nov. 5 Kernel article.

This number is encouraging, as only 3,273 total ballots were cast in the last SG elections, which were open to all students at UK, not just freshmen. If this trend continues, we could expect higher voter turnout for this spring’s SG race.

Despite low voting numbers across the commonwealth for the statewide elections, UK students should be proud of the active role they have taken in both campus and local politics.

Many students actively engaged in a variety of events that encouraged others to participate in the state elections, and the 50 percent turnout for the freshmen elections shows that students do care about the future of their university.

But student involvement should not end here.

More opportunities for students to become engaged in both local and campus politics are approaching quickly. General SG elections will kick off during the spring semester, and the council seat for Lexington’s 3rd District, which includes UK, will be up for election in 2008. These are both great opportunities for UK students to turn out in droves as participants of the political process.

If UK students make statewide and local politics important to themselves, this campus can have an active role in shaping the community. Tuesday’s elections saw voter turnout for Fayette County at 41.4 percent, or 71,758 voters. With a campus of over 26,000 students, UK can have a major influence in local government.

Low voter turnout statewide should not make students more apathetic toward politics than they might already be. The freshman class has already shown its willingness to participate in campus elections, and the rest of the university should follow its lead.

As more elections approach, there are more opportunities for student voices to be heard. These are opportunities that everyone at UK should be eager to take advantage of.