Why You Should Vote This November

Imagine it’s 2011, and Tennessee just passed a new voter ID law. You are a 96 year-old woman who has lived in Tennessee since you were 20, and you’ve only missed one election in your life since becoming eligible to vote. Naturally, you want to comply with the new law and make sure everything is in order so you can vote, as you have done for decades. When you go to get your voter ID card, you are denied because the name on your birth certificate does not match the name on your voter registration card. You outlived two husbands and changed your last name when you married, but you cannot obtain the marriage certificates required to prove your identity, so you do not receive your voter ID card. This is a true event that happened to a woman named Dorothy Cooper, who lived near a polling station and said she would miss going next door to vote.

I told you this story not to spark a discussion about voter suppression, although it is a serious issue, but to emphasize the fact that we take our right to vote for granted. Formerly incarcerated people, those without government-issued IDs, and millions of other Americans don’t have the same access to this right as many of us do. And in many other countries, citizens can only dream of having a say in who their leaders are. As privileged college students, we need to exercise this right. Young people, particularly young women, are the future. It’s up to us to start acting like it.

First and foremost, in order to vote, you have to register. If you are from Tennessee, you have until Tuesday, October 7 to register online in order to vote on November 6. So, go do that RIGHT NOW. I did it on my phone while having a conversation with two of my friends. It takes zero time and effort. Here’s the link: https://ovr.govote.tn.gov

If you are not from Tennessee, follow this link for your deadline: https://www.usvotefoundation.org/vote/state-elections/state-election-dates-deadlines.htm?stateName=TN

If your permanent residence is outside Davidson County and you can’t make it home to vote, you should definitely request an absentee ballot. It seems complicated, but all you have to do is download a form, fill it out, and send it by mail. You have a few weeks to complete it, so go ahead and do it now. You can find more information, as well as the form, here: https://sos.tn.gov/products/elections/absentee-voting

So, why am I making such a big fuss about this? Well, for starters, the voter turnout for our last midterm election (2014) was 35.9%. That means only 36% of eligible voters made all the decisions for the rest of us. And that doesn’t include all the citizens who are under 18, incarcerated, or otherwise ineligible. The second reason this is so important is that all of the House of Representatives seats are up for reelection. If you’re from Tennessee, that means the representatives from all 9 congressional districts are at risk, so if you want to make a change, the time is now. Conversely, if you like the representative for your district and don’t want things to change, you need to vote to keep him or her in a seat. The other positions Tennesseans are voting on this November are US Senate seats, governor, state senate, and state house. This election is critical, so don’t let other people make all the decisions for you. Plus, if you vote, you have more of a right to complain when you don’t like the people in charge.

Most importantly, I just want to encourage everyone to do their research. Don’t vote for who your parents or friends are voting for. Visit the candidates’ websites and research their policies. Look up what the media is saying about the candidates. Don’t vote for someone just because the person is in your party, because that does have consequences. Educate yourself, don’t let others try to sway your vote, and get to the polls.

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