Students encouraged to get involved in Provo politics

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Local candidates and current City Council members said students should be concerned with upcoming City Council elections because they will all be affected in one way or another.

Candidacy filing for the 2011 Provo City Council elections ended Friday with 14 candidates seeking votes for four open positions. No open positions will feature an incumbent candidate.

The primary election for Districts 3 and 4 will be  Sept. 13. The other two openings in city council, District 1 and City Wide District II, each have two candidates who will be placed automatically on the ballot for the general election on Nov. 8.

Current Provo City councilman Sterling Beck began his term while still attending BYU. Beck believes all students have reason to take interest in the upcoming elections.

“Many people are more interested in knowing what is going on in the federal government, but their decisions don’t have the same effect directly on students that decisions made by city council will,” Beck said. “Decisions made by city council directly effect all residents. It’s a very important thing to pay attention to.”

Although decisions made by the  city council include housing, parking, taxes and utility costs, many students never register to vote in Provo.

According to Adam Brown, assistant professor of political science at BYU, many students make the mistake of assuming they will return to their home state and neglect to register to vote while in school.

“So many students have no plans to go back to their own state,” he said. “You should be voting here, you should be looking at your city council.”

The district lines in Provo converge south of BYU campus, dividing up, in large part, the student population. Brown believes this doesn’t prevent the student voice from being heard.

“It has less to do with the lines than with an absence of participation,” he said. “It just means if they were to start being active in politics, they would have the ear of several members of city council instead of just one.”

In August 2010, the Student and Young Adult Board was created in order to give a better voice to the student population in Provo, as well as keep that population more informed. Those who are interested in participating may do so online at provo.org/mayorcurtis.young_adult-board.html.

Gary Garrett, a candidate for the city council elections for City-Wide District II, said he considers student votes critical.

“To a large extent, Provo is defined by BYU,” he said. “Students really have an opportunity to influence the city by understanding who the candidates are and casting their vote.”

Yancee Hardee, also a candidate for City-Wide District II, said his experience as a college student is a large reason for running.

“I had to withdraw from college at one point because the cost of being a full-time student and having family was too high,” Hardee said. “So I’m extremely sympathetic to issues facing students at BYU, so they can finish school.”

Most BYU students qualify to vote. Registration instructions can be found online at provo.org/elections.registertovote.html.

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