Do you care about how expensive your tuition is? What about whether or not guns can be legally carried on campus? How about voting rights, or if your vote will really count?
These things and more are all at stake, not in Washington, D.C., but in Tallahassee.
You should be tuned in to what’s going on in the Florida state government, because officials make decisions every year that have profound effects on our lives as students, workers and voters.
In the 2014 elections, Joe Saunders, a Democrat who represented the UCF area, lost to Rene Plasencia by 714 votes. Now, the second-largest university in the United States is represented in Tallahassee by a Republican despite the overwhelmingly liberal views of most of its students.
Plasencia has helped pass some good legislation, including extending the statute of limitations for rape cases and enacting Chloe’s Law to make roads safer.
However, Plasencia has repeatedly voted against the interests of UCF and its students since taking office. Despite UCF Police Chief Richard Beary’s strong opposition, Plasencia voted to allow Floridians to carry concealed firearms onto college campuses.
Plasencia also voted for HB 1411, which was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in March. The law tightened regulations on abortion clinics by requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and disallowing any organization affiliated with an abortion clinic from receiving public funding.
Regardless of what you think about these policies, it’s hard to deny that a college campus should be represented by someone vastly more liberal. After all, according to a 2015 study of college freshmen nationwide, 36 percent identified as liberal, compared with 22 percent who identified as conservative. Sixty-three percent agreed that abortion should be legal, and 56 percent supported marijuana legalization. Why on Earth are these people represented by a Republican?
Because UCF students didn’t care enough to get out and vote for Saunders.
The state government has other important responsibilities as well. They have the power to enact laws that can revoke voting rights from former criminals and make it harder to register to vote, both of which Gov. Rick Scott signed into law and both of which undoubtedly helped him win re-election in 2014. Hundreds of thousands of independent voters were likely blocked from the primary elections in March because Florida holds a closed primary. The state government has the power to change this as well.
As college students, we have a vested interest in the future of the United States. If we are to truly bring this country into the 21st century for good, we have a responsibility to care more about state and local politics. We can’t continue sitting idly by as those in Tallahassee do everything they can to close abortion clinics, bring guns onto our campuses and enact viciously un-American voting restrictions to perpetuate their own unearned power.
Alex Storer is the Entertainment Editor for the Central Florida Future. Email him at AlexanderS@CentralFloridaFuture.com.