As we approach the 2018 Midterm election, it is important to remember why we are voting, and what we are voting for. Every college student over the last few weeks has been bombarded with information about registering to vote. Voter registration memes have filled our Twitter and Instagram feeds, while parents and friends have reminded us to register and request our absentee ballots. By now, we should all be registered and ready, but have we really considered what all of this means?
Voting is more than checking boxes based on party affiliation. It is not something to be taken lightly. The very health of the country depends on the engagement of its voters. If you do not vote, your voice will not be represented in the election results. College students are known for caring about certain issues like the environment and civil rights, but statistically, they are the age group that votes the least. Marching and protesting are good ways to bring attention to an issue, but the most powerful tool that we have to create actual change in our government is our votes. If we want our government to address our interests, then we need to make our voices heard on election day.
We are not totally disengaged. College students hear about current events and politics. We know what is happening in America, and we have opinions on what we know. Many of us feel that the current politics of this country do not represent our beliefs. Many of us are outraged. So the reason that we don’t vote is not that we don’t know what’s going on, it is that we don’t think our individual voices make a difference. The world of politics has a way of making people feel small and insignificant. As young voters, especially first-time voters, it is sometimes challenging to recognize our place in this system. This is a dangerous way of thinking, and it could not be further from the truth. Every election ultimately comes down to the voters, and recently we have learned that the results of elections can be very close. So—while voting matters in every election—in some important cases, your specific individual vote really could decide the outcome. If every voter thought that his or her voice didn’t matter, then our democracy would not work. Every vote matters, and college students need to make theirs count this November.
Your vote will tell lawmakers what you personally care about. If you are passionate about a woman’s right to choose, the opioid crisis, transgender rights, or fiscal issues like federal tax revision and health insurance, then your vote will ensure that the person you elect addresses those very issues. Studies show that college students are passionate about mitigating climate change and preserving the environment. If that describes you, then this election is your chance to make that passion heard by your government. This only works, however, if you research the candidates and learn their stances on particular issues. It is not enough to vote on party lines. The only thing more harmful than not voting is voting while uninformed.
No matter what happens on November 6th, the results of this election will have a direct effect on your life. Whoever shows up to vote will shape the political agenda of our states and our country, so you had better make sure that you are a part of that decision. Politicians are continually making changes that affect the cost of higher education and student loan policies, so the economic impact of this election could directly affect your college experience. Older generations are more likely to vote, even though our generation that has more at stake. We will be inheriting the political decisions made now.
We are just now entering the voting population of American citizens, and we have to make sure that our political and economic climate remains sound to protect our future. There are more than 75 million Millennials, making us one of the most important voting demographics. The problem is that we do not turn out to vote in the same numbers that older generations do, so our interests are not taken as seriously. Politicians are aware of who votes, so they know who they have to cater to. If we want our government to address the issues that matter to us, then we college students need to mobilize and make them care.
For many college students, this will be the first election in which they are eligible to vote. Another discouraging factor that new voters face is figuring out exactly how the process works, which can be especially difficult without the guidance of parents that one has at home. By now voter registration by mail has closed, and we all should have received our absentee ballots, but that does not mean that the challenges are over. For college students, something as simple as finding a stamp to mail a ballot can be so discouraging that they simply give up. Do not let these things discourage you! The post office will mail your ballot to your town hall without a postage stamp and simply charge the election committee for that mail. If this process is new to you, then it could be daunting, but do not let that stop you from engaging in this important civic duty.
So if you have registered to vote and gotten your absentee ballot from your local town hall, then now is the time to reflect on what matters most to you in this election. Figure out what that is, and then research the candidates to make sure that whomever you vote for reflects your beliefs. Vote and make it count, because your voice does matter, and this election is more important than you may realize. The results of this midterm election will affect your nation, your state, your hometown, and you. Be proud that you can be a part of shaping that future.