I was shocked this morning to see a “Letter to the Editor” published online essentially critiquing students for expressing their RIGHT to vote and actively participating in democracy. Western Washington students are a huge part of our county and yes, even our city. As you look around Ferndale, the amount of residents that graduated from WWU is growing as are the amounts of people currently attending.
The letter seemingly questioning whether students should ‘be allowed’ to vote in elections flies in the face of our democracy. Students at Western are as integral to our functioning democracy as anyone else and we should be celebrating their political engagement- not questioning the validity of their voice. I especially take umbrage to insinuation that somehow voters must “own property here, own businesses here”. Statements like this reek of classism. Must you now be a homeowner or a business owner to vote? Is this the direction people want to take in this country… or the attitude we want to have locally?
Contrary to what’s insinuated in the original article, more than 87% of Western students are Washington residents with a sizeable portion being Whatcom county residents before matriculation. Even for students who came from out of county or out of state, they now live here, pay rent here, and work here… and yes! They pay taxes here! For those that don’t work, they are often actively engaged in the community through service learning and other volunteer activities where they help to better the community. The students from WWU also spend money and help to drive much of the local economy. The fact that they care about local engagement and politics is only a boon for all of us. It’s sad to me, that we as a community, would start to attempt to invalidate and question people’s very right to participate in the basic right of voting in a democracy simply because we disagreed with a local political outcome. It’s actually shameful.
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