There is a lot of pessimism surrounding this election, especially on Tufts’ campus. As young people, we are used to being promised grand schemes and sweeping ideals every four years. This rhetoric played a key role in the rise of Senator Bernie Sanders during this election cycle. However, for many — especially people of color and minorities — these promises can often fail to materialize. Let me be clear: I get why people don’t vote. They feel distanced from a system that too often fails to represent them, led by people who do not look like them, do not think like them and do not seem to have their best interests at heart. They view the gridlock and ineptitude that has gripped Washington for over a decade, and see very little in which they should invest hope.
These are legitimate, but myopic views. Voting matters, and your vote counts. According to an April 2016 study by the Pew Research Center, nearly 70 million millennials, people between the ages 18 to 35, are eligible to vote in the 2016 election, a voting bloc that has the potential to swing any election. The 2014 midterm election featured a voting rate of less than 20 percent for those between the ages of 18 and 29, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). This number was the lowest figure for our demographic in the past 40 years, and a number that lags far behind more senior age groups. The percentage of young people who said they were registered to vote in 2014 was also the lowest in decades, at 46.7 percent. This means that we are effectively letting our elders make the decisions for us. If every college student in the country voted, politicians would be far more responsive to our demands and goals. Currently, with such a low voting rate, we have given them little reason to acknowledge our policy agendas. In addition, as Rock the Vote identified, “Sixty-one percent of millennials identify as White, while 17 percent are Hispanic, 15 percent are Black and 4 percent are Asian.” If millennials do not vote, then who else will represent the needs and aspirations of such a diverse constituency? Voting is the expression of political opinion, and we are abnegating that responsibility.
Another reason that people opt not to vote is that the policy decisions of Washington feel distant from their daily lives. This feeling is, in part, because we are on an island devoid of many of the responsibilities of life. But this will soon change. Within the next four years, Tufts students will begin to find jobs, rent their own houses, start families, begin paying for healthcare or start their own businesses. The decision that you make on Nov. 8 will play a pivotal role in every aspect of your life — if not now, then very soon.
But it is important to remember that you are not just casting a vote in the presidential election on Election Day. On the ballot in Massachusetts are four ballot initiatives, each of which gives the residents of the Commonwealth, which includes many of us, the clearest path to directly creating legislation. These ballot questions will delve into key issues such as the expansion of state charter schools and the legalization of recreational marijuana. There is also a congressional race in our district. Across the country, state and local elections will have massive ramifications on policy. No matter what state or town you vote in, there will be a critical question at stake on the ballot.
I am not going to tell you who to vote for tomorrow. To me, the choice is clear. If you do not vote for either major party candidate, vote for a third-party candidate, or write in a name. The act of casting a vote is what is important. Voting is a right that generations of Americans struggled to win — a right still denied to many across the world today. It is a duty and a sign that you care about the future of your fellow Americans, if not your own. It is your voice, your expression. So, tomorrow, Nov. 8, go make your voice heard.
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