Yes, your vote does count.

Category:  Opinions
Thursday, November 1st, 2018 at 8:36 AM

Among one of the most frustrating things a person can say to me is this, “I don’t vote.” 

Those three words will provoke a strong, steady glare, exclamation of disbelief, and depending on how well I know you, a thorough roasting of your life choices: including all the things that you indulge in frequently that are less important than casting a ballot. 

Voting is one of the most fundamental rights that all Americans have. The power to elect who we as citizens feel best represents us is what differentiates us from so many other countries. The right to feel heard and listened to by those elected to serve our interests is one of the reasons why the United States is even a country in the first place. The privilege to speak our opinion about elected officials at every level of government when we cast a ballot is so powerful that our country has a long history of excluding ethnic and racial minorities, women and those who were illiterate from speaking their mind at the polls. 

For years, even after the abolishment of slavery, African-Americans could not vote because of racist voter registration requirements. For many more years women could not vote because they were deemed incapable of formulating an opinion on who would best represent their interests. In keeping these two groups (and many more) from voting, the establishment was making sure that elections stayed relatively uncomplicated: speak to the concerns of white males more than your opponent? You were getting voted into office.

People suffered and died so that all Americans could exercise the right to vote. And it used to be that people understood just how special that right was — however a new breed of American has been born, and they really don’t want to vote. 

I understand that some people struggle to get past voter ID laws, or read and fill out application forms, or have the resources to get to the polling stations; the people I speak of are not in these categories. I’m talking about the 18-24 year olds on college campuses. According to Child Trends, a non-profit, non-partisan research center, the number of individuals ages 18-24 who voted last midterm season (2014) was 16 percent.  We have the potential to be one of the most important voting blocks in American history and yet we are not mobilizing and exercising the great power that we are privy to. On Edinboro University’s campus, there have been groups setting up tables with information about voting, where you can vote and absentee voting, as well as giving out forms to register to vote before the Oct. 9, deadline for voter registration in Pennsylvania. 

Online, a simple Google search will bring up all that you need to know about registering to vote. And yet only 16 percent of them voted. This confuses and frustrates me to no end. I know that college students have issues that they are passionate about. I hear them groan about how unaffordable college is, how uncertain they are that they will find jobs after they graduate, how much they don’t understand the decisions that our current elected officials make. So why can’t that anger translate into votes? 

The midterm elections for congress, governor, state senate and congress are just as important as the presidential election, if not more. The decisions that those at a state level make impact us on an everyday basis more frequently than the rare national bills that the federal government passes. If you are dissatisfied with the way that your city, district or state is being run, don’t just take it lying down. Register to vote, look up information on where you’re supposed to vote, research candidates. 

If you are out-of-state, I sincerely hope you looked up absentee voting (most states have deadlines of early to mid October). Make sure to keep tabs on the issues of the day back home. It’s not hard, you just have to give yourself the time to do it. I refuse to accept that young people aren’t voting because they are not educated about politics and the political system: my peers know more than they give themselves credit for. What I do believe is that they don’t think that their vote will make a difference in the long run, and that is just not true.

If you’ve registered to vote. Vote. If you missed the deadlines, get registered for next time. 

Shayma Musa can be reached at voices.spectator@gmail.com.

Tags: opinions, voices, vote

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