All of the banter, all of the complaining, and all of the qualms that we have with elected officials are only valid if you used your democratic voice. It doesn’t matter if you have a voice that leads the student section at football games or if you have a voice that always needs to be repeated because every person’s vote is equal on Election Day. One person = one vote. In other words, your vote is worth as much as Donald Trump’s even though most of us do not get more than 3,000 retweets on a regular basis. In order to convince you that your vote matters, I will be debunking the three most common excuses among college-age students for not voting on Election Day.
1) I don’t know anything about the candidates.
Between classes, study groups, and trying to remember if you have had four or five cups of coffee today, it is challenging to find the time to stay informed on each candidate. But you have an advantage in this day and age because you are a millennial, and you know how to use a computer better than anyone else in the world. You are incredibly adept at navigating through the Internet, and that is the key to your political education. A super helpful website to help you learn more about the candidates in upcoming elections is isidewith.com. It takes about ten minutes to answer a series of questions on broad political issues like climate change, gun control, foreign policy, etc., and the end result is the candidate with whom your views most align. It’s basically a BuzzFeed quiz, and you and I both know that we have taken plenty of those while searching for the inspiration to finish the latest physics assignment.
2) I don’t have time to get to my polling station on Election Day.
That is okay! One of the coolest parts about this country is the US Postal Service. Given enough notice, they can help you cast your vote. All you need to do is go online to longdistancevoter.org (or Google “absentee ballot form” and your state), print off an absentee ballot request form, fill it out completely (don’t forget to sign your name!!), put it in a stamped envelope, and send it off to your local elections office. You ballot will be sent right to your mailbox, or to your email inbox if you prefer, in no time. It has literally never been easier to cast your vote.
3) I am just one person, so my vote doesn’t matter.
This is my favorite excuse to disparage because, dare I ask, what is the point of a having a democracy if its citizens are not utilizing the power of the vote?
It is true that one vote probably will not swing an election, but what about the other millions of non-voters who thought the same thing, and are now left with their least favorite candidate as the victor? That kind of apathy has the power (or lack thereof) to shape an election.
Let’s do some math. In the last midterm election, only 33.8% of the voting age population (VAP) actually cast a vote, meaning that 83,262,122 people are making decisions for the 245,712,915 people who are old enough to cast a vote (electproject.org). That doesn’t seem very fair. Now let’s look at a big state, like California. They have 53 representatives and 2 senators, more than Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon combined. Only 7.5 million people or 25% of California’s VAP voted the 2014 midterm election. That figure is just above 1/3 of the 20.2 million college students in America (nces.ed.gov). While not all of these college students live in California, can you imagine what an extra 20.2 million votes would have done in elections all across the country? Apart from increasing voter turnout by 10%, another 20.2 million people would have their voices validated and heard by the US Congress, which is extremely important as it is the US Senators and Representatives who decide policy on tax increases, family leave, foreign policy, education funding, veterans benefits, etc – issues that directly affect all voters. However, since these representatives were chosen by a mere 37%, that leaves 63% of the VAP subject, for the next two years and longer, to the choices of the few who actually voted. Again, that does not seem fair. It isn’t, but the only way to change it is with the vote.
Mom always said “There is a time to use your inside voice and a time to use your outside voice,” but you are an adult, so now is the time to use your democratic voice.
Here are some helpful links and citations mentioned above.