“I don’t vote because my vote doesn’t count.” “I don’t like either of these candidates.” “The government is corrupt.”
These are rather common narratives of November in the United States, and they are rather unfortunate misconceptions. Many people will be staunch advocates for their candidate-of-choice around this time, and many others will passively protest Election Day by omitting their vote.
Election Day is held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday each November. This year, Election Day is held on November 6. In Vermont, prospective voters can register to vote up to and on Election Day. For out-of-state students of Castleton University, prospective voters can contact their home town clerk’s office in order to be mailed an absentee ballot. Historically, only about half of the eligible U.S. population votes in a given election on a year with a “good” turnout.
Why does all this matter?
Civic engagement is often a loaded word that people either misinterpret or dismiss without consideration. Voting is a single-day, very quick way of civic engagement that can actually affect the voter. Thus, voting is not just a declaration of support for a particular candidate. It is a way for individuals to dictate and shape the future of their community.
Those who don’t vote are merely proponents of the status quo. They act as pacifists in a society, not offering the simplest and one of the greatest contributions to their society. Those who complain about the status or state of their society but refuses their right to vote, in my opinion, are unjustified, as they did not take the minimum one minute to fill out their ballot.
The right to vote has been argued for, fought over through wars, and been allowed and denied to a certain number of people in this country, but on a much larger scale throughout the world. Not voting is perhaps one of the most selfish and dehumanizing things a person can do. Pardon me if this offends those whose life is too busy to spend 0.01 percent of their year in order to improve their society, assuming that voting on Election Day would take one hour.
Consider a mere sixty years ago, where the United States saw severe oppression of voting for African-Americans. The 14th and 15th amendments gave all citizens the right to vote, regardless of race. However, tendencies of racism in the South was a severe deterrent and a pertinent reason for people to not vote. For 21st century citizens, not voting is a selfish act and a disgrace to those who fought for hundreds of years to have that ability.
Talking about issues that are actually pertinent to a person should be easy. For someone living in poverty, electing a representative who will improve poverty of his or her constituents’ area, it does not make sense for the person to not speak out for his or her interests, thereby remaining stagnant in society.
How does this pertain to students?
Well, students are an increasingly important demographic in the realm of voting. We, as students, are the future. While that cliché is used time and time again in academic settings, it is inherently true. If we want a well-functioning society in the future, what better way to dictate that than by setting a precedence by the power of the vote?
Voting is taken advantage of. One of the “perks” of turning 18 years old in the United States is the ability to vote, but in fact not that many students vote. According to the Campus Vote Project, the demographic of U.S. citizens shows that 21 percent of the population is between 18 and 29 years of age. However, only 17 percent of people between the age of 18 and 24 years of age cast votes in the 2014 election. Therefore, an increase in the young-person vote could be truly impactful for the outcome of an election, whether it is local or national.
I am 19 years old, and I have voted in both of my eligible election years. As an out-of-state student, I have had to do slightly more work than my Vermont peers in order to vote; however, this work is both enjoyable and purposeful to me.
I vote because it not only allows me to shape my government but also because it sets me up for personal success. Voting is just a small step in a lifelong search for expression and, perhaps, one’s “calling.” Voting takes 0.01 percent of a person’s year, which is evidently a very small, insignificant, and negligible amount of time, for perhaps several years of a fate for a community.
Voting is not just a political act. It can be an act of personal growth. When we stop voting, we stop learning, progressing, evaluating, and focusing. We use the pacifier of society and do not voice our thoughts. Students, in our age of constantly being overlooked, should we continue to play into that? Should we continue to allow the parental guidance in life and in politics when things such as taxes, tuition costs, cost of living, and healthcare affect us – the new wave of adults?
I say no.
I encourage each of you to go out and vote on that November morning. Make it a part of your Dunkin’ run. You can change your society by the stroke of a pen. So, go out and do just that.
– Alex Jensen