Opinion: The Disenfranchisement of Students

By McKenzie Huff, Christopher Haddix and Gavin Hall, Guest Columnists 

Amidst the complex landscape of American politics, where the voices of independent voters often go unheard, Gettysburg College stands as a beacon of both our nation’s history and political activism. As of 2023, political science remains among the most popular majors, making up 10.7% of degrees earned by the Class of 2023. Students also remain incredibly active in programs such as the Eisenhower Institute, which gives them first-hand experience in government institutes, international organizations, and much more.

Every year, citizens of the United States have the power to choose who they want to represent them in government. Primary elections are coming up soon, however, over one million registered voters will not vote—not for lack of care, but because they are prohibited from doing so. Out of 50 states, only seven completely bar independents from voting in primaries. Suffrage is extended to independent voters in 43 other states, granting them greater influence compared to their counterparts residing in states with closed primaries. Our government is supposed to be for the people, by the people. The government’s job is to serve the people, which includes allowing citizens the power to choose who they want to represent them. Denying this right is fundamentally undemocratic.

The predominant political identification of young people has become independent. While one-third of baby boomers identify as independent, 52% of millennials and Generation Z identify as such. In total, as of 2022, 28.55% of American voters were registered as independent. Yet, Pennsylvania does not allow independents to vote in primary elections. Despite independents being restricted from voting in primaries, young people are still registering independent at an increasing rate. Barring independents from primaries does not increase voter registration or identification with either major party. 14.5% of Pennsylvania citizens are registered as independent and that number is only growing.

Last April, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced SB400, a bill that would end closed primaries and allow for hundreds of thousands of politically unaffiliated Pennsylvanians to participate in primary elections. That same week, members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives introduced bills HB976 and HB979. These bills, if passed, would declare that all Pennsylvanians registered as unaffiliated “shall be permitted to vote in primary elections.” Support for these bills is essential for the improvement of voter equality across the commonwealth. . It is crucial for young people to begin voting, as the world will, one day, be in their hands. Civic responsibility may seem lacking in younger generations, with many young people feeling apathetic towards politics, but it is our duty to actively engage and support them.

These bills will be voted on within the next few months. For these bills to succeed, it is crucial that young people across the state take action. We implore individuals to reach out to their legislators, urge them to support these bills and recognize their importance to democracy. This is a step in the right direction not only for independents, but for our entire generation. Getting these bills on the desk of Governor Shapiro will mean a stronger democracy for us all.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that 10.7% of the student body is enrolled as a political science major. 10.7% of degrees awarded to the Class of 2023 were in political science, while 13.3% of the Class of 2023 graduated with a political science degree. – V. DiFonzo 

Author: Gettysburgian Staff

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  1. Dear editors,
    Thank you for your great work at editing a remarkable student newspaper. I am a frequent reader.
    I noticed a minor error in one of the articles you posted recently. “Amidst the complex landscape of American politics, where the voices of independent…. As of 2023, political science remains the second most popular major among students, hosting 10.7% of the student population.”


    I updated those statistics every year. Actually, 10.7% was based on the 2023 graduating class, not “the student population”.

    The pattern could be similar in the student population, but we do not know.

    I appreciate you citing the Facts and Figures, and would suggest you make a minor change to your language above.

    Suhua Dong
    Director of Institutional Analysis

    Post a Reply
    • Dear Editor,

      I noticed that you promptly adjusted the language in your article after receiving my previous comments. I am truly impressed with your professionalism!

      If you do not mind, I would like to point out another nuance: The denominator I used when calculating the 10.7% was not the total number of unique individuals in the 2023 graduating class, but the total number of majors completed by these individuals: these 573 students (unduplicated headcount) completed 713 majors (as some students completed double majors). Thus 76/713=10.7%, as I explained on Page 13 of our 2023-24 Fact Book. Using the total number of majors completed as the denominator is consistent with the Common Data Set approach and with the US News approach of presenting most popular majors of a graduating class.

      If you use the graduating class as the denominator, it would be: 76/573=13.3%.

      Thank you for paying attention to this nuance.

      Post a Reply
      • Dear Editor,
        I noticed that after I pointed out the statistical nuance above, you quickly made another adjustment in the language in your article. You also promptly emailed me about this change. Thank you. Again, I am truly impressed with your professionalism!

        Post a Reply

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