Presidential elections are important. They are elections countries pay attention to. They decide who the leaders of countries are. We are taught from an early age the importance of having a president and what his or her powers mean.
That message of importance is not extended to senators, representatives, governors or mayors. These positions in government are not only important but essential to the balance of power, making Tuesday’s elections that much more important.
Midterms come two years after a presidential election and focus on senate and congressional candidates as well as other local positions such as elections for governor, attorney general and mayor. These elections are important because they decide not only who holds power in small towns and cities, but also who represents districts and states in Washington D.C.
This year’s elections come during a period of intense frustration directed at senators and representatives, particularly those from the Republican party and even more toward those who continue to support the decisions and rhetoric of the Trump Administration.
USA Today writes: “burdened by a controversial president who has inspired historic Democratic enthusiasm, Republicans expect to have difficulty holding onto their House majority.” A surge of advocacy for Democratic candidates or a “blue wave” is expected as Republicans currently hold control over Congress with 23 more seats than Democrats currently. Republican control allows for legislation regarding contested issues like immigration, tax reform, health care, women’s reproductive rights and climate change to be easily passed by the Trump administration.
Last week, I found myself scrolling through my Twitter feed when a tweet got my attention. It read: “Welp…it’s official…Kim Kardashian finally decided to divorce Kanye West…” I was intrigued, so I clicked on the link that followed the eye-catching headline. The link did not lead me to an article about the impending divorce but instead to vote.gov, where I was shown information about how to register to vote. It was clickbait and democracy working together as a force of good: making sure young people were registered to vote.
Tweets like these have become common in the last few months in an effort to encourage those between the ages of 18 and 25 to vote in the midterm elections on Nov. 6. Voter turnout in the United States has been low in recent years, with only 55 percent of eligible voters voting in the 2016 presidential election. Furthermore, the individuals who typically don’t vote — the 18-to-25 demographic — are the ones who will find themselves most affected by who is voted into office and the decisions they make.
Fifty-five percent may not come across as big number to some, but in reality that’s a little bit more than half the population of the U.S. That means around 160 million people stayed home from the polls.
What makes this figure even more disheartening is the history of voting in this country.
Voting in the U.S. has a long and enduring history. The right to vote was not granted to all in 1788 when the U.S. Constitution was signed. It would not be until 1971 that all groups of Americans would be allowed to vote.
The 200 years between those two dates represents a long battle for most to be able to decide who represents us and what laws are passed. From women gaining the right to vote in 1920, to the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits racial discrimination that prevented voting by racial and language minorities, and the lowering of the voting age to 18 in the 26th Amendment, this history represents groups fighting for the right to vote for their representation. Those 160 million people need a thorough history lesson.
The campaign to get young people to the polls has been fierce this year, with pop culture figures like Taylor Swift openly writing about their plans to vote. Swift stayed silent during the 2016 presidential election and this year posted to Instagram about her plans to vote Democratic in the state of Tennessee. Swift’s message struck a chord; 65,000 people registered to vote in the hours following her posting.
As students on a college campus and likely many miles away from home, we are not present to vote in our districts and counties next week. Distance is not a fair excuse as to why one didn’t vote when absentee ballots exist. Absentee ballots allow for votes to cast when a person is unable or unwilling to go to their designated polling station. On the Plattsburgh State campus, absentee ballots were made available by the Student Association.
Voting is important and hands power to those who decide to use it. Do research and figure out who the candidates are in your district and county and see if their agendas match up with yours. Take 15 minutes out of your day to do a civic duty.
You have a voice. Use it.