As college students in the United States, most of us are getting our first real taste of freedom, and as technical “adults,” we are starting to make our own decisions, including where we stand politically. But being an adult comes with new responsibilities and rights, and one of the most important is voting.
American citizens are granted the right and responsibility to vote in the United States Constitution, and this is fundamental to our democratic society. Any citizen, once they reach the age of 18, is granted this privilege. However, according to Forbes, in the last presidential election, only 50% of college students voted. Younger voters account for half the voting population, but older voters are more likely to go to the polls.
“It’s so important for college students to vote,” president of College Democrats, Julia Simpson said. “A lot of people in politics, particularly older people, are quick to disregard issues facing younger generations because we vote a smaller rate than older generations. On campaigns, in College Democrats, and even from professors, I’ve heard the same sentiment that ‘young people don’t vote’.”
According to Census Bureau data, up to 15% of registered voters did not vote because they did not believe their votes mattered. However, that is not necessarily true.
With such a large percentage not voting, a larger turnout could turn the tide. According to a study by Tufts University, “Students constitute a large enough voting block to shape election outcomes and shape the future and health of a participatory, equitable, and informed democracy.”
Whether liberal or conservative, citizens cannot complain about political issues of today if they do not at least attempt to change them. Voting is one of the easiest methods to try and affect policy.
“For me, I’ve always been very vocal and expressive when it comes to my beliefs and values,” Simpson said. “So…it’s easy to just see voting as a responsibility rather than a right.”
Even those who do not know their own political beliefs should go out to vote. In this day and age, it is easier than ever to be an informed voter. With the Internet, voters can quickly research candidate’s platforms to find those who match their beliefs. Political science major Rachel Hagan emphasized the importance of voting, even under strange circumstances.
“If you don’t identify with a political party, research the candidates’ beliefs on issues that you think are most important, and research their personal character and integrity,” Hagan said. “Sometimes you have to pick the one who most aligns with you, even if you don’t have great options.
While many students may not care about politics now, it will matter later. The winners in elections determine the country’s future, and it affects all of us. By doing our part and casting votes, we can help decide what our country and our futures will become.
“If you want your voice to be heard, you have to vote,” Hagan said. “As college students, we care about a lot of issues, and voting is a chance to ensure those issues are taken care of.”
While voting will always be an important issue, the gravity of the situation is larger than ever. This election determines more than a president; it determines our country’s long-term future, not just the next four years.