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ATT HATCHER | Staff Photographer During his visit to Ohio University Monday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson stressed the importance of students’ voting in their university’s area.

Public figures stress importance of student voting

During his on-campus speech earlier this week, the Rev. Jesse Jackson encouraged students to use their voting power to influence where they live.

Jackson underscored the importance of students voting in Athens during his speech Monday, which aimed to encourage student-led initiatives to combat poverty and unsustainable student debt.

“This is where you live. This is where your power is,” he said.

Mayor Paul Wiehl agreed with Jackson’s sentiments that students have political power in Athens.

“If student numbers were consistent, they could run this city,” Wiehl said.

If every undergraduate and graduate student enrolled at Ohio University during the last election voted, they would have exceeded the total number of voters by 2,417.

“Historically many students don’t vote,” Wiehl said.

In the 2010 election, 9.6 percent of the registered voters in the mainly on-campus student-housing precincts voted. The number was low compared to the rest of Athens, where 40.7 percent of registered voters participated in the election, according to the Athens County Board of Elections.

Wiehl and the other candidates in the upcoming Athens elections agree that student voting is important and could affect the outcomes of the election.

“Students should vote where they go to school,” Wiehl said, adding that most OU students consider Athens their home.

Wiehl, a Democrat, is up for re-election this year and is running in one of the city’s few contested races against Republican Randy Morris, who also encourages OU students to vote in Athens.

“A lot of them like to vote here. I encourage them to vote here or at home,” he said.

R.J. Sumney, who is running as an independent for the 3rd Ward council seat, also said students do not consistently vote in Athens.

“Traditionally students don’t vote except if it is a presidential election or there is an issue they find important,” said Sumney, who is the business manger for The Post.

Both Sumney and Wiehl said they think Issue 2, a referendum to repeal Senate Bill 5, will attract students to this election.

Michele Papai, a Democrat also running for the 3rd Ward, and Morris stressed the importance of students being informed about the issues.

“When it comes to local issues it is important for students to get informed about the issues and candidates and not just vote on party lines,” Papai said.

Papai said she also supports student voting as long as the students are well-informed. Morris said knowledge about the election is important for all voters.

“I hope (students) get informed about candidates and issues. And the same goes for long-term residents, as well,” he said.

Senior Writer |

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