The new redistricting plan will hurt residents. College Park City Council must veto it.

The opinions expressed in the opinion columns are those of the author.

As students, we have our fingerprints throughout the College Park community: we frequent the restaurants we love, we determine rent by living in off-campus housing we deem ideal, and we protest local policies that we consider unfair.

Currently, College Park is deliberating on an important policy that would extend our influence in the decision of members of the city council. The redistricting committee of this city is considering a new redistricting plan to centralize student populations in two electoral districts instead of three. While this would give students a greater opportunity to choose the board members we want, it will come at the expense of longtime College Park residents achieving what they want for the community.

Due to our low voter turnout, the transient nature of our community, and our limited perspective on the desires of permanent residents of College Park, condensing students into two districts would be woefully inefficient. This city’s redistricting commission is expected to vote against the new district maps and keep student populations spread across three districts.

We wield our power with the force of a steel sword, incisively choosing the homes, businesses and policies we want in our community. And yet, with all the influence we have within the community, we as students seem to be largely uninterested in deciding who is on the College Park council. With derisory 10% voter turnoutwe have one of the lowest voter turnout rates of any major population group living in College Park.

Low student voter turnout has several causes, including the difficulty register to vote in hometowns and the fact that some students at this university are not old enough to vote. However, on the whole, students don’t vote because we don’t care who our College Park is. the representatives of the municipal council are.

In a Tufts University survey, the number one reason enrolled students did not vote was that they didn’t like or didn’t know who the contestants were. This strongly implies that there is widespread apathy towards voting for Representatives because we do not yet fully understand the importance of the civil process, nor are we committed to establishing the habit of voting systematically, even when the choices are not very convincing.

And in a way, that’s a good thing. College Park has permanent residents who must deal with the consequences of the policies, while students stay only four years before taking the first ride they can find out of town. Why should we have more of a say in the political decision of this city than permanent residents? We have no right to displace the power that residents have over their community.

Even if we had one board member and voted regularly in elections, the voting student population changes so rapidly that it would be difficult for a single board member to adequately represent everyone’s wishes. 40,000 students at this university.

Permanent residents have desires for the community that are distinct from those of students. For example, changing housing prices in the College Park area caused by the high influx of students and new businesses may soon crowd out young families and long-term residents of the community.

Very few new developments are designed to meet the needs of residents planning to stay in College Park long term. Although having more affordable housing only benefits students for a few years, maintaining this infrastructure over time would allow families to put down roots in this city. I’m sure many long-term residents would benefit from policies such as inclusive zoning – even more so than students – to help stabilize housing prices and allow low-income residents to stay here.

Some community residents are move to their current neighborhoods, which they believe represent their needs. They do not believe that the students represent the wishes of the residents of College Park and they fear that their community voices will be silenced whether the redistricting proposals become a reality.

Students at this university play a vital role in setting community-wide policy by organizing protests, consulting directly with student council members, and stimulating the economy by patronizing local businesses.

However, we do not vote for our local or national representatives at high rates. And as such, we cannot drown out the voices of people who show up at the polls and vote. Ultimately, they are the ones who live year after year for decades with the policies of College Park.

We must give up this battle and return our swords to their sheaths. This city’s redistricting committee must maintain current district electoral maps that divide students into three districts.

Ravi Panguluri is a second-year computer science and statistics student. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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