“I’m not voting this year; I don’t even want to,” one of my friends said when we discussed the first presidential debate in one of our classes. “It wouldn’t matter or change anything. I’m not registered.” She shrugged as if she hadn’t just dismissed one of the best parts of being a citizen in this country.
I had heard these kinds of comments numerous times this election cycle, from my friends, boyfriend, and even my dad. Social media posts contain people complaining about how “mean” and uncomfortable talking politics can be, especially this year. It seems that with such a contentious election season (mainly due to the candidates) people of all ages seem uninterested in casting their vote.
Yet, in this election more than ever, everyone needs to go out and vote. No matter your opinion on the candidates, it’s important to use your vote and use it well.
Take the importance of voting from someone who cannot vote in this country yet lives here, like my mother. “It troubles me to hear people say things like ‘I’m not voting because my vote won’t make a difference’ or ‘I’m not voting because both candidates are awful and I have to follow my conscience,’” she said. My mom is from Toronto, Canada and lives as a legal alien which means she is not a citizen of the US, but she can legally live in the country. “There is a lack of understanding about what happens when one doesn’t vote. By not voting or by writing in some random name, you will still be setting something in motion that might be even less palatable for your conscience.”
Even beyond having the right to vote as a US citizen, your vote does make a difference. There’s power in numbers. There is no stand being taken by not voting: You’ve only taken away your own means to voice your opinion in this country. If you don’t vote, you should be prepared to watch the next four years unfold without your opinion since you could have helped change the outcome.
Famed nonpartisan political organization Rock the Vote states on their website, “Millennials are over 80 million strong and growing. With that mass, we represent a voting block that can and does swing elections. The youth vote is a huge force for social change. We are the most diverse generation yet. We are passionate about the issues and we give our time to causes we care about and issues that inspire us.” It’s tempting to think that whoever is president won’t affect you, especially in the “Ursinus bubble.” We’re young, we’re just starting out, and issues that don’t happen on campus might feel far away and foreign.
Yet, think about how fast the past four years went by leading up to this year’s election. By the time the next election rolls around, you could be married, have children, buy a house, or pay for your own health insurance. And don’t forget about paying off your student loans. All of these things are linked to larger systemic issues like the government’s actions on health insurance, reproductive rights, and so on. The candidates for the presidency have positions and plans for addressing these issues. If you want things to be a certain way when you’re just beginning to craft your adult life, it’s a good idea for you to cast your vote.
What’s worse is that people who don’t vote typically only look towards the presidential election rather than the local government election that will directly affect you. Very few people vote in local elections when the choice of those officials is actually very important. They will be making new local laws and have a solid amount of control over how your taxes are used. I believe that most people would want a say in where their money is going.
Overall, voting is a civic responsibility that we should not take lightly. It’s not something to shrug off because you feel disenfranchised by the government or you don’t like the candidates. It’s not something to skip because you think registering to vote is too complicated or you just don’t feel like it.
Take ten minutes out of your day to read up on the candidates and register to vote. In Pennsylvania the registration deadline is Oct. 11. You can register online or mail in the registration forms available in the registrar’s office. As I learned in the primaries, voting takes five minutes. If you make the decision to register and vote this November, think about how you can proudly wear your “I voted” sticker because you let your voice be heard.