Large BYU population has small voice in Provo politics

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BYU students not registered to vote in Provo still hope for their opinions to be heard. Photo by Todd Van Hoosear

Some BYU students hope for a greater voice in the municipal arena as they call Provo home during their four-year education pursuits.

The roughly 30,000 students enrolled at BYU currently constitute about 20 percent of the population of Provo. According to Y Facts, only 34 percent of those students are Utah citizens, leaving the remaining 66 percent without a say in local politics.

“I think that a major issue with BYU involvement in the Provo City government is the fact that most BYU students are not Utah residents,” said John Gibbons, a BYU senior studying political science. “I am from Virginia, and I retain my Virginia residency in hopes of getting in-state tuition for law school. Since I’m not a Utah resident, I can’t vote in any Provo elections, and so I feel like I don’t have a very effective outlet for any of my concerns.”

Gibbons went on to say that he hopes the Provo City government makes more of an effort to connect with students on campus to hear their opinions.

“Maybe have the mayor speak at a BYU Tuesday morning forum, or have the government sponsor some sort of activity on BYU campus,” Gibbons suggested. “Anything to get us connected with the local government and to let us give them feedback and hear their opinions on important issues.”

Nick Taylor, a Wisconsin native studying biochemistry, voiced similar concerns.

“I think Provo has accommodations for students but doesn’t always see them as full residents since most of them never register or pay taxes to the city,” Taylor said. “We’re a type of free-rider, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to contribute. The circumstances just don’t always allow us to.”

Provo City’s recent mayoral election only drew 15 percent of the voting population, and if Taylor’s political science class is representative of voter turnout, it is safe to say that very few of those voting were BYU students.

“Our professor asked how many people voted. In our class of about 105 (students), only 3 people raised their hands,” Taylor said.

Mayor John Curtis recently said it has been hard for the city to communicate with students in the past. However, he said new strides in Provo’s social media presence have been a great way to communicate with them.

“We created a website: provo4students.org,” Curtis said. “(Social media), quite frankly, is how those students like to communicate with us. We find that if we try and force them down to our council meetings and into our chambers, we’re just going to be frustrated with trying to communicate with them.”

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