Opinion: Make voting a habit, not a special occasion

I don’t know about you, but I was really excited when I received my absentee ballot in the mail a few weeks ago. When I turned 18 last year, I was so upset that my first vote would not be during a presidential election. I still showed up to vote for my hometown’s local races, but for a lot of my friends, the absence of a big-ticket race made voting seem pretty pointless.

As we look ahead to next Tuesday, it’s hard not to get excited about this election with all the energy we have seen around campus. Various clubs and organizations have been registering voters for months, and we were even fortunate enough to host Kal Penn this past week to talk about the importance of getting involved in the political process.

But even with all the anticipation about the big tickets, I cannot help but think back to last year when my ballot consisted of only Town Council and School Committee candidates. While the media attention of a presidential race is definitely enticing (when else is Big Bird considered a hot-button political issue?), we often let it completely overshadow local races.

After all, these local races have the biggest impact on us as individuals, from public school funding to road repairs and everything in between. It is local officials who will make the biggest decisions affecting our everyday lives. Despite their direct significance to our communities, these small races consistently receive the lowest voter turnouts.

That is why this year I am thinking a lot less about Obama and Romney, or Warren and Brown, or any of the most publicized contests. And after seeing the barrage of negative ads and constant media coverage, it is easy to want to put away politics for good after November 6.

But it is so important to shake off the voter fatigue and get out and vote in every election. While our president, senators, and congressmen are important, our local officials will be making the everyday decisions that affect us the most. We have to pay attention to what’s going on in our cities and towns, and we have to commit to becoming consistent voters. It’s not enough to vote every four years.

If you have already voted absentee this year, congratulations. If you are waiting until Tuesday, please make sure you find a way to the polls. But for everyone on campus, including those who did not register in time for this election, please do not let this be the last race you pay attention to until 2016. Make it a personal goal to stay informed after November 6 and vote in your local races. Your state representatives and senators matter. Your mayors and school boards matter. Don’t let four years go by before casting a ballot again.

Comments