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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

There’s no excuse not to vote

Nov. 6 midterms require collegiate involvement

Voting is the foundation of a democracy. Citizens can certainly petition their governments and run for office themselves, but ultimately, casting a vote in an election is the simplest and most direct way to shape a government that closely represents your values.

A government exists to serve its citizens and it is our responsibility to provide input by electing candidates who we believe will best create legislation that suits our needs. Choosing not to vote out of apathy or a disinterest in politics is an abdication of that responsibility.

The millenial vote is one of the most sought-after by political candidates, and for good reason. Our investment in the outcome of political elections is more long-term than any other eligible-to-vote population, and yet we too often fail to take advantage of the opportunity to shape decades of policy by casting a vote and making our voice heard.

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University estimates that only half of eligible voters aged 18 to 24 voted in the 2016 general election. That number was only 17.2 percent in the 2014 midterm election, according to CIRCLE.

College students in particular can find it difficult to schedule a visit to the polls on election day, or even to the mailbox to send in an absentee ballot. Yet with a civic responsibility as vital and foundational as voting, we should emphasize making time rather than finding time, especially when in-state students at St. Joe’s can also vote via absentee ballot.

It’s easy to lose sight of the importance of midterm voting. General elections are given far more media coverage and discussion space than midterms, often causing a lack of interest in state and local candidates who appear on the ballot during the midterm elections. Those state and local candidates often shape policies that most closely impact voters.

State lawmakers configure budgets for public education, design long-term development plans for the roads and bridges we drive on and decide what percentage of our paychecks go to state and local taxes.

In recent years, states have also used their right to self-determination to override federal restrictions, legalizing marijuana and same-sex marriage while Congress refused to do so.

If you’re frustrated by your representatives in Congress not reflecting your values, then electing state and local politicians who will vote in line with your ideals is likely to create a more visible, immediate impact on your daily life.

And it is likely that you are frustrated, as only 19.1 percent of Americans expressed approval of Congress according to a recent polling aggregate by RealClearPolitics.

Voting also impacts our daily lives because of the ways in which voting was and is still denied to different marginalized groups.

Participating in democracy is often difficult or impossible for black and Latino voters due to obstacles created by lawmakers who have an interest in making sure their voices are not heard.

In a January 2018 case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the boundary lines of its 18 total districts had been gerrymandered to benefit Republican members of the state congress and that the entire state congressional map needed to be redrawn as a result.

During this election cycle, it came to light that over 107,000 eligible voters in Georgia were “purged,” or permanently removed, from the state’s voter registration listings after not voting in previous years.

Efforts that restrict access to the polls, including “purges” and voter ID laws, disenfranchise people of color and low-income voters who tend to lack required documentation for voting, such as a photo ID.

Voting should not be a privilege, but it still is for many Americans. Skipping the opportunity to shape your own democracy is not just a shame, it’s irresponsible.

Being a politically-involved citizen doesn’t mean that someone needs to start watching C-SPAN or reading Nate Silver’s political analysis blog FiveThirtyEight. It simply requires evaluating what you value personally and consider which candidates on the ballot will pass legislation actualizing those values.

So whether you carpool with friends to the polls or register to vote for the first time, take the first step in creating a legislative body that caters to your values by participating in democracy.

—The Hawk Staff

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