Lack of student involvement in city elections could cause issues for future students

Provo City Council candidate Valerie Paxman campaigns at April Beus’s home. (Thomas Madrigal)

The Provo municipal general election will be held on Nov 5. On top of campaigning with local community members, candidates face the task of getting more BYU students involved in this year’s elections.

District 4 candidate Valerie Paxman said that despite her lack of activity in local politics when she was a BYU student, she is now heavily involved in Provo politics.

“I don’t think that I felt as invested in Provo at that time as I do now. Now I’m really invested in my community and I want it to remain a good place to live,” Paxman said.

Paxman said she wants more students to be aware of the impact they have on decisions that take place in the city. She said she hopes students are aware that their choice not to vote ultimately costs them in the long run, whether they like it or not.

“What right do you have to complain if you did nothing to vote to make a difference?” Paxman said. “I think it’s important for students to realize that things that are on election directly affect them, for instance, living or rent costs.”

Paxman said she is aware of the small student voting turnout but still urges young adults to consider the long-term effects. “They need to be willing to live with the consequences of either voting or not,” she said.

BYU political science professor Adam Brown expressed the importance of staying informed about local elections.

“People overestimate the importance of national politics in their lives,” Brown said.

Even though Brown teaches Introduction to American politics, he noted that he still emphasizes the importance of local politics with supplemented readings. 

“Most of the policies that affect your life are coming out of the state capital and the city government,” he said.

He acknowledged that some students who attend BYU may not claim Utah as their home, but said it is still important that they realize what happens in Provo impacts them because of their temporary residency.

“The city isn’t everything, but it’s important, and if you spend four years living here without ever acknowledging that you spent four years being from Utah, you’re not being honest with yourself,” Brown said.

BYU alumni Zach Yancey recalls not being aware of the different local city events and issues as a student aside from the construction of the Provo City Center Temple and the construction around town.

“I didn’t follow (city issues) very much other than complaining,” Yancey said.

He also expressed that being contacted outside of a school setting would’ve helped him stay informed on local issues.

Yancey, a resident of Utah of five years, said he is now more attentive to his city’s local issues.

“I am more interested with what’s going on because I am going to be here for a long time,” he said.

Information about Provo’s city council candidates can be found on the Provo City Council website.

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