The United States has a very complicated and ridiculous voting and election process. As a 15-year-old in 2016, I was absolutely dumbfounded when Donald Trump won the presidency when Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote. I cannot say I even understood the popular versus electoral vote at that point, and honestly, it is not that much clearer today.
Whether or not you find the electoral college an appropriate means of determining the president, it is perhaps not the leading problem of elections. Historically, young people have not shown up to vote.
Political science professor Dr. Charles Hunt “attributes intergenerational low youth voting to barriers presented by shifting circumstances, whether that be attending college or not, moving away from home or being unsure of their vote.” But now, young people are stepping up, and personally, I was extremely excited when my chance to vote arose. I even registered to vote the day before my 18 birthday.
My first experience voting was during the presidential primaries in March; it was relatively simple for me. I went with a friend, who was also voting for the first time. There was no wait time and we were done much faster than I would have anticipated.
Finally, the time for voting for the 2020 presidential race was upon us. I chose to request a mail-in ballot; despite the numerous claims by Trump that mail-in voting was rigged, I did my own research and determined that, in order to limit my exposure to the coronavirus, it would be in my best interest to vote by mail. A number of studies have shown that mail-in voting fraud is not as common as Trump seems to believe.
I requested my ballot early and waited as patiently as I could for what I considered the most important act as a 19-year-old. It was not until the weekend of Oct. 3 that I received my ballot in the mail. I opened it, quickly marking down the candidates I was already aware of.
Then, I did my best to thoroughly research the candidates on the ballot that I had not heard of before. Making comprehensive decisions is vital to voting, but as I learned that weekend, many of the magistrate candidates have no sort of profile or information available about them.
After I finished my ballot, I had to decide how I wanted to return it. Considering this would be my first presidential election, I thought that receiving the legendary “I Voted” sticker would be a fun memento. So, I chose to drive down to the Ada County Elections Office and dropped off my ballot there. I was satisfied as I drove back to campus, but the apprehension for the upcoming election was growing inside me.
I have seen a number of young people on social media or even walking by them on campus say that they were not voting. They did not see the importance, they did not believe their vote mattered, they did not like any of the candidates… sadly, the list of reasons goes on.
Despite the overwhelming doubts about voting, voting is important. Determining who will lead and govern our country for four, and potentially eight years is not an unimportant ideal. Many will say that “voting is your civic duty,” but never explain why. If young people are to vote, they need to actually understand why.
To young people, it may seem like everyone is able to vote, and that has been the case for a very long time. However, the fact is that for many years, the right to vote belonged to white men only. Then, Black men were also given the right to vote. Many years later, women were finally allowed to vote as well – but that was only 100 years ago.
Now, choosing not to vote can be seen as a very privileged choice. In most cases, voting simply will not affect cis-het white men the way it will affect women, people of color, LGBTQ and disabled people.
With the introduction of another strongly conservative judge to the Supreme Court, laws on abortion, same-gender marriage and transgender rights will have the possibility of being repealed in upcoming years. These things will not have the drastic effects on cisgender heterosexual white men that it has on minority individuals.
When you vote, and vote for Biden, you stand with minorities nationwide and choose to fight for their rights which are much too often contested and debated against. Voting is not simply deciding who will be president. Voting is deciding who is able to live their lives without fear of oppression and harassment. So please, whether you are a long time voter or voting for the first time, get out and vote on Nov. 3, and vote for the rights of millions of oppressed people.