Leading up to elections, there are several items on the average voter’s list to complete: researching the candidates, marking down deadlines, registering to vote, and—for college students across the country—knowing how to vote while away from home. While the lot of these may sound complicated to a new voter, students at Pensacola Christian College are given opportunities and resources to confidently prepare them ahead of Election Day.
For many on campus, this year is their first opportunity to vote in a presidential election, and Olivia Summers (Jr., MN) has used it to learn about the candidates running and to understand their values. “My first experience voting was this past summer during my state’s primary elections. I prepared by making sure I was registered to vote along with researching the candidates and their backgrounds,” she said. “Because this is my first year voting, I don’t have any other experiences to compare it with. However, I have been keeping up with current events surrounding the election and the different policies the candidates promote.”
Benjamin Bostwick (So., FL), who is also vice president of the student-led political science club Freedom Forum, has encouraged his peers to watch debates, research issues, and become educated about each candidate. “It seems to me that there are two important areas in each candidate: issues and philosophy,” he said. “Most people focus on a candidate’s opinion on issues. However, issues will change as a candidate’s term progresses. It is also important to know the candidate’s overall political philosophy—what they believe about government in general, and about American government specifically. Philosophy will govern how a candidate responds to all issues.”
“Christians have a unique ability: they can judge the world based on God’s absolute truth,” Benjamin continued. “Christians have the ability to properly understand human nature, power, freedom, and other political factors. That knowledge means Christians can potentially be the best informed voters.”
Benjamin also volunteered with helping fellow students like freshman Heidi Campbell (TN) understand how to and then register to vote. “I’m an out-of-state student, so they’ve encouraged me by offering [voter registration], and they made it super simple for me,” Heidi said. “I thought it was going to be this whole big process, but I was done in like 10 minutes. They’ve done a good job of making people aware this is an option and to take it.”
Thursday evenings throughout each semester, students are invited to join Homefront, a student-led prayer group that focuses on praying for the country, its leaders, and the issues facing Christians. As the current student leader of the group, Joshua Cartwright (Sr., NY) has hoped to make a difference through prayer and has encouraged his peers to stay informed about current issues ahead of the election. “Homefront has encouraged all of us that, no matter who will be president, we still serve the same powerful God,” he said. “Voting is an honor to protect and preserve godly government. We must also pray that our leaders would lead toward righteousness and not toward moral confusion.”
On October 23, many students took the opportunity to hear the President of the United States speak at the Pensacola International Airport. “The atmosphere was awesome. It was loud and energetic, and people were stoked to see the President,” said William Job (Jr., ME). “The ability to hear an incumbent president speak in person is something that everyone should have the opportunity to do in their lives. It gives someone a chance to see the candidate and allows them to put an experience behind the words instead of what they see on TV.”
“It’s always a unique opportunity to be able to listen to a sitting president speak,” said Dr. Jon Lands, Executive Assistant to the President at PCC. “It’s a historic moment, in fact, for students to be able to do that.”
On campus, students have had several ways to stay informed and involved with the primary election, including participating in the Student Body initiative “Pray, Vote, Pray” inspired by I Timothy 2:1–2. From viewing the presidential and vice presidential debates in the Sports Center to committing a time to pray for elections in the Commons Florida Room, students have been preparing to make the most of their protected freedom.
Helping with that preparation was Dr. Rick Green, a former member of the House of Representatives in Texas, who was invited to speak in chapel about the role of religion in politics. Through his presentations, he showed how the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and other founding documents were inspired and written by men who sought out God’s truths in order to found a government that honored those truths. He also encouraged students to see the good that has come of the United States since its founding by speaking from his “Saving America Begins with You” presentation.
“Y’all are so blessed to be able to be at a school like this,” said Dr. Green. “So what I want to challenge you to do is take it back home, take it back to your communities, take it back to your state and influence our nation. And I asked you out of a selfish motive, because what you do here in Florida while you’re here, what you do when you get back home, it’s going to impact me in Texas. It’s going to impact my family. It’s going to impact my children and my grandchildren. We’re in this thing together.”
On Election Day, students will have easy access to voting polls. “We have a great relationship with the Escambia County Supervisors of Elections, and we have been honored to have them use our facilities as a polling location for Precinct 110 for a number of years,” said Brad Mullenix, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs. “Our student body has always been engaged with elections and who will best protect their interests. It is, and always has been, encouraging to see the number of students that actively get involved in government and elections. In more recent years, and especially this election, there seems to be more of a fervency as the issues are very important.”
After much preparation, students are ready and looking forward to using their voice to influence their world—or, in this case, their country! “[Exercising the right to vote] establishes a healthy civic habit, which can last further into adulthood,” said Boaz Campbell (Sr., PA). “As an American, it is an incredible right that many people in the world do not have the privilege of exercising. I believe that anyone who can, especially young people, should vote to keep that right alive.”