On November 6, 2018, Americans headed to the midterm polls to vote for a selection of senators, representatives, governors, and various lower-level political figures. College voters flooded the polls in numbers that had not been seen in 25 years, rising from a 21 percent to 31 percent youth turnout, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. Covenant College clung to the upper level of this voter turnout.
According to a survey run of a sample group on campus, 38.24 percent of students voted in the midterms. In actuality, the number of students who voted is closer to that 31 percent seen across the nation, as the survey did not take into account the number of international and underage students who did not participate in the vote.
Though 31 percent was celebrated as a success across the nation, at Covenant that leaves roughly 700 students who did not participate in the election.
Many students referenced the difficulty in voting itself. On November 2, Griffin Felton (’22) was 2.5 hours away from his home in Alabama, with buckets of homework. He wasn’t passionate about any of the candidates and didn’t see his single vote as significant.
The weekend before, Claire Piquette (’20) planned to vote early on a weekend home in Carrollton, Georgia, but by the time she got through the weekend traffic, the polls had already closed.
Rodney Miller, the deputy registrar of Dade County, was not impressed by the claim that it was simply too hard for college students to vote. Paraphrasing Miller, at any college, there will be out-of-state students who have to request ballots. At any college, there will be an inconvenient drive to the polls in the morning when a student would rather sleep in or do last minute homework.
Miller said, “The democratic process is a good system of government, and students should take the time to educate themselves [about the candidates and the issue being voted on], in order to be active in and be a good servant of participating in the process. Yes, you have to balance the time, just as I have to be balancing my time as a Covenant employee, a father, a deacon at my church—you have to balance the time. That will be a challenge for the rest of your life.”
Michaela Meneghini (’19) had more to say on why Covenant students don’t make voting a priority.
Meneghini said, “Covenant tends to be very insular and isolated, both geographically and kind of culturally. In terms of privilege, being able to not worry about local policymakers is kind of a white privilege thing, because you are not vulnerable to other people making decisions that affect your life. We have a lot of white privilege on campus, where people just don’t really see how it affects them, so they just don’t get involved in politics.”
While students sometimes joke about the “bubble” around the castle in the clouds, according to a survey taken, there could be signs that Covenant is becoming, as Meneghini said, an insular and isolated community.
Covenant students admit that they are inconsistent with keeping up with the news and current events, as seen in a survey taken that showed only 8.82 percent of surveyees regularly keep up with the news, with the largest majority saying they “sometimes” kept up with the news hovering at 33.82 percent.
However, there could be one other contributing factor to a lack of awareness: administration.
Novella Long (’19) said, “It shouldn’t be the job of the administration to spoon feed us current events, but I do think it’s worth consideration to maybe think about current events more in our prayer times and in our chapel times as a topic of discussion or a topic for prayer.”
There is an effort by the chapel department to bring to Covenant a diverse range of voices to campus, such as Jemar Tisby, who centered his Reformation Day talks on the painful history of the Presbyterian church. While this topic was meaningful and needed, that does not change the fact that in a year plagued with 7,175 hate crime incidents in the United States and a 17 percent increase in anti-Semitic crimes alone since 2016, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, there has been no response by the administration.
Meneghini (’19) said, “If we’re going to be an institution that aligns itself with the gospel, the standards are fairly high. Christ is calling us to be broken with the broken, even if we don’t occupy that space. [...] That means talking about it, that means learning how to mourn together and learning how to repent together.”
In a survey taken of a sample group of students, 100 percent of eligible voters said that they would be at the polls to vote in 2020. Whether Covenant students push past the Covenant bubble to turn their intentions into votes is a question which remains to be answered.