35 days. Only 35 days separate us from knowing who will be the 45th President of the United States of America. The White House will be redecorated, comedians will have new punch lines, and social media will be filled with posts of either joy or despair. More importantly, there are only 35 days left until we can make our voice heard as a nation. No matter which party we identify with, we will have the ability to impact not just our communities, but generations to come.
But do our votes actually count? The answer is yes.
While millennials count for one-third of the electorate, only less than 50 percent actually cast a vote in 2012. In most communities, the turnout for voting is also less than 50 percent. What would happen if we accomplished just an 80 percent voter turnout rate? When we fail to vote, we are undermining a representative democracy. Of those who do vote, they are disproportionately of higher income, older, and more partisan in their interests. Elected officials spend many resources understanding the voter population and therefore may only focus on the needs of those who vote instead of everyone collectively.
Thankfully, we possess the power to change this, and others who have gone before us have conquered mountains in order for us to do so. Equal voting rights have not always been a right of the American people. It has only been almost 100 years since women earned the right to vote and the African American community has faced more than discrimination against casting their ballots. By either choosing not to vote, or just not dedicating time to the cause, we are collectively making a statement that all of their effort, hard work, and sacrifices were in vain.
While our vote matters on the national level, we would be amiss if we didn’t discuss how important it is on the local level. According to Ballotpedia, a total of 469 seats in the U.S. Congress (34 Senate seats and all 435 House seats) are up for election. Only 8 seats in the Senate will decide which party gains control this November. Senator Isakson (Republican) is up for reelection in Georgia as well as 14 candidates in the House. This is critical to understand because Congress ultimately is responsible for creating and passing policy, not the President. These are policies that will directly impact how our communities function on a daily basis. Everything from street signs to alcohol ordinances, our local politicians are responsible for paving the way on how we interact with our surrounding environments.
So how can we register to vote?
Registering to vote is as simple as a few clicks on a computer. Visit vote.usa.gov in order to register online, or register through the Department of Driver Services when renewing a driver’s licence. A voter registration card should then be sent to you in the mail with your assigned polling location. Polling locations are typically held in local churches, schools, or other administrative offices. For most students attending Georgia Southern, they will need to fill out an absentee ballot – essentially a long-distance vote. The registration deadline for all upcoming elections is October 11th. For election dates, check out the following:
General Election – November 8th
Local and State Offices – December 6th
Federal Offices – January 10th
Regardless of our feelings about the current election, voting should always be the first step in improving our great nation. Our election process is one of the many ways that America stands out as a country and continues to represent the hopes and dreams of countless individuals across the world. This November, exercise your right as an American citizen and let your voice be heard.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – MLK