As the Nov. 6 presidential election creeps ever closer, it’s time for every college student to register to vote. Most campuses, including ours, have volunteer groups that make the process very easy. So why do so many of our peers still choose not to vote?
Our generation has been derided as lazy, entitled and apathetic in media portrayals, and even though in my experience such characterizations have been proven incorrect, I fear there may be some grain of truth. Not every American youth has equal access to voter registration and polls, especially with the recent slew of right-wing generated voter ID laws, but we at Hopkins are highly privileged in this regard. We all have internet available 24/7 and can easily find the five minutes or so it takes to register online, even including the few minutes more it takes to apply for an absentee ballot if we wish to vote in our home state. And yet a large cohort is still rejecting their chance to influence the direction and future of our country.
In my discussion with fellow students, a few recurring themes have appeared. Some say that they are too disillusioned with the political process and know that their vote won’t do anything to change it. Others say that they don’t care who wins or loses because it won’t affect their lives. A smaller group says that they can’t in good conscience vote for either current candidate, though they might vote in future elections. Some of these feelings doubtless were ingrained during childhood. But guess what, we aren’t children any more; you can make your own decisions now.
To the disillusioned among us: yes, you are right, the political process is deeply flawed, overrun by partisanship and outside interests. But the only way to change this dynamic is through voting. That is the essential promise of democracy, that the people can dictate their future through elections. Is it going to happen this election cycle? No. Will it ever happen? Maybe not. But if you want it to change, get thee to a voting booth and add your tiny two cents.
To the “don’t care”-ers: wake up. Elections do have a real impact on your life and the lives of your fellow citizens. So you’re rich enough to weather an economic storm, pay for medical care and pay whatever taxes might appear? Your neighbor probably isn’t. It is your duty as an American to vote for the greater good of the country and support the extension of rights. Don’t care if gays get married or not? They themselves care, so use your vote to support them. Even if your life won’t change, look at the state of your fellow citizens and vote for what you believe will help them the most. If the country is prosperous, your life will likely improve.
And to those who disdain both current candidates: that’s okay! There are so many other measures on ballots around the country in which you can have an impact. I am choosing to vote in my home state of Calif. because of numerous referenda that I feel strongly about, including enacting environmental legislation, determining discretionary spending and putting an end to gerrymandering. In Md., (where all American Hopkins students can register if they choose) we have a gay marriage bill and a redistricting (gerrymandering) bill up for vote. For more information, head to ballotpedia.org to view ballot measures from every state.
Though it may not seem like it, each election is a turning point. This year, the options are acutely different. Consider the information available to you. You don’t have to vote for the president. You don’t “have” to vote at all. But, as you enjoy so many of the other rights provided to you by the Constitution, step up and act on your right to vote.