SAJU: Voting on Nov. 6 is absolute necessity

Opinions Column: Pride, Not Prejudice

As a nation, we stand at a crossroads. The time is coming for us to choose who we are and what we choose to fight for. History is being made at this moment, and years from now when we look back at this time in the pages of a social studies textbook, there are two possible reactions for how we can feel. We can remark on how far we have come and how much progress has been made or we will look back and remember a better time. 

The choices we make today will help create our future. It is time for us to decide what kind of future we want. It is time for us to actively participate in our democracy and protect the principles that this nation was founded upon. It is time for us as a nation to get out and vote. 

People all over a country known for being a beacon of democracy find many reasons to avoid voting. Of all of the adults in the United States that have reached the voting age, only 56 percent voted in the 2016 presidential election. As free citizens, it is our job to care about the nation that we are living in. Voting is seen as an important determiner of good citizenship, and Americans understand that voting is essential for the functionality of a democracy, yet millions of Americans are still missing from the political decision-making process. 

Moreover, young people are often a demographic that chooses to stay home. But this disinclination does not necessarily mean that we do not care about the future of our country. So, we must explore why the people who will be affected by the policies for a longer period of time choose to stay home as well as consider what can be done to increase young voter participation. 

There are numerous weak excuses people make to stay home: “My vote doesn’t matter,” “All of the Candidates are bad,” “Congress doesn’t affect my life” or even “Elected officials are crooks.” 

Not voting protests nothing and helps no one. While marching in the streets is certainly effective in influencing the public’s understanding and perspective on an issue, this method does not have a direct effect on who is selected to be in a position of power. The best way to change our society is by voting. 

When analyzing the reasoning behind why we do not vote, a lack of civics education is an undeniable factor. Only 9 states of the 50 require a full year of civics education, and in 31 states students only have a semester to learn about the complexities of our democracy. The longevity of a democracy is dependent on informed citizens to express the needs of a changing society, but the lack of political instruction is not the fault of school teachers. Instead, we must hold the government responsible for valuing civics education as much we value math, reading, science and writing. There are numerous problems with the education system in the United States, and students must be taught how to solve their own problems and understand how to advocate for change. The results of a national civics assessment test reveal an unsettling trend: Black and Latinx students from low-income areas did significantly worse than their white, middle-class peers. Those who have a greater need to be informed in how to advocate for their communities are inadequately prepared to do so. We must make an effort to inform the younger generations. Instead of just telling them how to vote, we must explain why we vote. 

There are numerous other options that should also be examined in improving America’s voting system. For example, an automatic voter registration system, same-day voter registration (which would allow any qualified resident of the state to go to register to vote and cast a ballot all in that day), online registration, restoring the rights of those who were formerly incarcerated and spending more money on voter outreach are all options that can be nationalized. It would also be beneficial to consider compulsory-voting laws in order to increase voter turnout. While these laws are not always strictly enforced, their mere presence is stimulating for a nation. For example, when Chile moved from compulsory-voting laws to voluntary voting laws, voter turnout drastically decreased from 87 percent to 42 percent (this number slightly increased the following year to 49 percent). As suggested by Jaboukie Young-White’s first appearance on “The Daily Show,” adopting digital voting, voting at home and making election day a national holiday are other viable methods to encourage young people to vote. 

We must care about our nation and about protecting our democratic principles. Too many people have sacrificed for this country for us to waste our votes. Voting is the only way to build a future worth having. So, go vote on Nov. 6. There is too much at stake to stay home. 

Neha Saju is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student planning on majoring in political science and history and minoring in English. Her column, "Pride, Not Prejudice," runs on alternate Mondays.


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