Utah Special Election 2017: Why Your Student Vote Matters

As millennials, we hate hearing over and over again that we are not civically involved because we actually are, according to education researcher Catherine Broom: we volunteer in our community, we generally know who our political representatives are, and we petition for positive change on social media. But there’s one thing that our generation has continually forgotten or neglected to do: vote.

When public office candidacies are determined by a handful of votes, it’s an understatement to say that every vote matters. This is the trend that’s being seen in recent past elections, yet research shows that nationally only 42% of 18-24 year-olds were registered to vote, a 40-year low, and only 17% of registered voters cast a ballot in the 2014 elections.

On November 7, Municipal General Elections as well as a Special General Election will be held and your votes are needed. The elections consist of the following:

Municipal General Elections

Municipal general elections are how you vote for your local mayor and city council members. In Provo, candidates for mayor include Michelle Kaufusi, Sherrie Hall Everett, and write-in Odell Miner. Acting as the executive branch in local government, the mayor’s responsibilities include, among other things, enforcement of all laws applicable to those residing or conducting business in Provo.

Municipal elections also allow individuals to vote for the city council member who will represent their local district. As the legislative branch and policy makers of Provo, the City Council

  • Establishes laws.
  • Sets policy.
  • Oversees the city’s budget.
  • Provides opinion on the administrative branch’s execution of the law
  • Approves long-term contracts and commitments of city resources.

Political science professor Chis Karpowitz  notes that there are two major reasons why BYU students should care about these local, and specifically mayoral, elections in a recent The Daily Universe article:  “One reason is that decisions made in Provo directly affect a student’s life — things like where they can live, where they can park, what community resources are available to them. The second reason they should care is because students could turn the election…they turned out to vote.”

Special General Election

Utah’s 3rd Congressional District representative Congressman Jason Chaffetz resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives this past June, leaving a vacancy. The House of Representatives is responsible for making and passing laws, formed by the bills and resolutions introduced by our own district representatives. Candidates for the position include current Provo Mayor Republican John Curtis, Democrat Kathie Allen, Libertarian Joe Buchman, United Party Jim Bennett, Independent American Party Jason Christensen, and unaffiliated candidate Sean Whalen.

John Curtis and Kathie Allen have taken a particular interest in college students and the millennial generation.

john curtis
Courtesy of John Curtis

In the past month both candidates have in fact made special efforts to spend time with and reach out to millennials. Curtis has held several “meet and greets” with students at Slab Pizza and Sodalicious, later posting on his Twitter account that “these people will change the world.” Kathie Allen has likewise held special town hall events where she told millennials that “if they would own their voting power, they could change the outcome of this special election and elections nationwide”.

katie Allen
Courtesy of Kathie Allen.

In a town where one third (32.6%) of the population is college or graduate school students, Provo millennials need to accept the challenge and responsibility to vote. “We don’t have a right to complain about [politics] if we have this right to vote and we don’t exercise it because that’s how things change. It’s a really cool power we have, so why not use it?” shared Samantha Frazier, a Political Science major and President of BYU’s Republican group on campus in a recent article

Make change with your votes, Cougars.

How To Vote

elliott-stallion-105205The first step to vote is to register. The last day to register in person at the Utah County Election Office (see the state website for necessary documentation, hint: you don’t have to have a Utah license if you still intend to be a Utah resident) is October 31st, but you can also register online (just remember to have your Utah drivers license with you) by that date. Since all ballots will be conducted entirely by mail, make sure you register as soon as possible and that your registered address is your current residence. Your completed ballot must be postmarked no later than November 6th to be counted in the election.

In the past, BYU students have led several projects to help millennials lift their political voice, but this year’s special and municipal elections are the time to put these initiatives into action. Vote November 7th and join one of the many BYU campus clubs geared towards politics and civic engagement to stay involved until the next election.


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