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It can be hard to recognize history as it’s happening around you. It’s hard to see the importance of involvement when social media pushes a new issue each day or shows us carefully curated bliss. Your friends may be posing in front of waterfalls that look like hidden treasure when really they are two steps off a tourist trail and they had to wait in line for that picture. You might forget about that friend you follow from middle school because they no longer show up on your feed but they are phone banking every Tuesday and attending county meetings and have the internship of their dreams.I imagine that the grandchildren of our generation will begin a middle school paper with

“The year is 2020” to set the scene for an essay about all of the historical significance of this year. And there is no doubt in my mind that one of their classic three body paragraphs will be on voting in this election.   If interviewed by those grandchildren this would be my testimony about the 2016 election, which started it all: The night of November eighth, my Social Studies club held an election night party. We decorated the cafeteria and had snacks and lemonade sitting at red and blue covered tables. We watched the votes roll in and as it was getting later and later, I knew we would be going home before the result of the election was official. I asked my two most trusted teachers a question. I spoke to them privately and from the depth of my heart. I wanted to know if they thought “he” would win. I didn’t say his name like he was Voldemort but I felt relief when they both said they were sure he wouldn’t. You see, we had spent the better part of the semester looking at predictions, discussing rhetoric, and the debates. In every class teachers had worked the election into their lesson plans. I went to sleep that night, as the kids say, “unbothered.”

I found out from a Snapchat news story. At 5:30 in the morning, I drove and cried in a hidden cemetery. I later realized it had been a Jewish cemetery. The synchronicity of that moment is not lost on me today. In that moment I had never felt so powerless in a decision, that moment has shaped me to where I am now and understanding why we vote: to use our voice for those who can’t.

For many of us newly in college, we had to sit on the sidelines of the 2016 presidential election but still live through its results. We may have been able to knock on doors and have Facebook debates over candidates and issues, but we did not get to exercise our right to vote which we now have. 

This election we owe it to the 15, 16, and 17 year olds. We need to cast an informed ballot whether by mail, drop off, or the traditional in person. We have new barriers that combine with the blatant issue of voter suppression that prevents even more of us from voting this year. We are not having a traditional lead up to November third, but traditions that are brought on by habit need to be thrown out. Traditionally eligible voters of 18-24 are least likely to vote. Voters in this age group are more than half of Americans, enough to decide the popular vote. They are Millennials and Gen Z. It is with this information and recognition of your individual impact that I arm you.  I implore you to go beyond being a single-issue voter and looking at the candidates this year as a checklist. Choose who most aligns with your morals and beliefs. Then choose to cast your vote either by mail or in person by November third. 

We are voting for our futures and we are voting to write history with our own pens.

You can check if you are registered to vote in your state here.

Rhyannon Baxter

Cincinnati '21

University of Cincinnati undergrad, a double major in Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies and Psychology.
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