Not Voting Is Simply Not An Option

Calling (out) all college students!

How many times have you pretended to answer a text on your phone, or greet a friend a few feet away, just as someone at a booth or table asks: “Are you registered to vote?”

Let’s dissect that scenario a little bit. How quickly can you say

No, I’m an out-of-state student, and I’m only registered to vote in [insert state here], and I don’t know how to fill out an absentee ballot, because I’ve tried before and it’s really complicated.

without having to wait for a response before we run off to our next commitment? Not that fast. So we make a split-second decision: oftentimes, just evading the situation.

For two years, I did the same thing, simply smiling and nodding as I ran off to my next class. It wasn’t until I took leadership positions on campus when I began to realize just how many decisions we entrust our elected leaders to make. So many times, I hear other students say, “The issues they talk about don’t affect me.” Maybe it seems that way, but our elected officials make policies and interact with others who will affect our day-to-day lives.

It wasn’t until I took leadership positions on campus when I began to realize just how many decisions we entrust our elected leaders to make.

But we’re millennials, right? Our generation is known for our social activism and engagement in national issues! However, data shows us otherwise.

In 2008, only 48.5 percent of 18-24 year olds voted, compared with 70.3 percent of those 65 and older. The same trend appeared in 2012, with 41.2 percent of 18-24 year-old’s voting, compared with 72.0 percent of those 65 and older. With a millennial population that is slowly overtaking the baby-boomers’, the Presidential election this year is crucial in beginning to form the nation that we will live and raise our children in.

This begs the question—where are we, young people?

There are many explanations for the lower voting trends: complications in registration processes, lack of knowledge about the voting process (especially if students attend college outside their hometown or state of residence), or the (lack thereof) direct impact of issues in our day-to-day lives being discussed on the campaign trails.

Our generation is known for our social activism and engagement in national issues. However, data shows us otherwise.

But aren’t we throwing away an opportunity that millions of people fought for just 200 years ago? As a black female, I cannot afford to waste this opportunity to elect people who will advocate for me. I cannot sit idly by on Election Day; because by not voting, I am making a decision. If I want to see a world with more people who look like me in positions of leadership, then I need to get to the ballots to vote. In such a crucial election year, voting is not an option for me, and it should not be for you.

Everyone’s reason for voting might be unique, but our generation constantly works for the progression of our nation. We advocate, march, and organize, to create change in our communities; but when it comes to electing the people who we feel will make the decisions that we’re lobbying for, we don’t follow through.

As a black female, I cannot afford to waste this opportunity to elect people who will advocate for me.

It’s like preparing for an exam for weeks, months even, and then deciding not to take it at the last minute because we have to drive to the testing facility or register online.

That doesn’t make any sense.

After hundreds of years of men and women tirelessly working to reverse voter suppression, we cannot waste the ability to unify and get to the polls this November. Voting rates in presidential elections typically range in the 60th percentile. Millennials can do something about that figure. Our time is now, and every single one of our votes matter. This is what it means to be a citizen. Voting is not a privilege or a right. It’s a duty, and it’s our duty.

I’ll be voting this election season (and every season, for that matter). Will you join me?

#OneThirdWillBeHeard.