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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mich chapter.

100 years. That’s how long women have had the right to vote in the United States.

Correction: that’s how long white women have had the right to vote.

For women of color, the number is even less than that. In the grand scope of history, a century or less is not much time at all. It’s hard to imagine that a few generations ago, half the population was denied a voice in their future. Voting is a privilege that’s not afforded to everyone. It’s a right that so many generations before us dedicated their lives to fight for. 

Voted Stickers
Photo by Element5 Digital from Unsplash
Even today, so many people do not have the right to vote in this country. In some states, US citizens with past felony convictions are not able to vote, even after they have served their time. Additionally, despite being US citizens, residents of Puerto Rico and other US territories aren’t able to vote in the general election, and they don’t have representation in the US Congress. Immigrants — both documented and undocumented — may live in the United States, pay taxes, contribute to our economy and our communities, and think of themselves as American to the core, but can’t cast a ballot. 

two women sitting at table signing papers
Photo by Gabrielle Henderson from Unsplash
As an immigrant and a naturalized citizen myself, my citizenship is not something that I take for granted. Despite my immigration, the United States is the only home I remember and despite feeling fundamentally American my whole life, for many years I didn’t have the privileges of citizenship. That’s why my right to vote is the purest expression of my identity as an American. And that’s why it is yours too.

Think about how many people the upcoming election will impact. Beyond those that I have already described, how many others across the world are affected by the US government’s decisions on issues like foreign policy or climate change? The United States is a global superpower. The actions of our government reach beyond our own country and influence the future of our whole world.

Everyone has a stake in the upcoming election, but not everyone has a say in its outcome. If you have a vote, you have a privilege. It’s up to you to use it. 

Voting allows you to stand up for what you believe in and advocate for yourself. The November 3rd election will have major ramifications for civil rights protections, access to affordable health care, climate change, immigration policies, criminal justice reform, and the future of the judicial system, to name just a few. It’s also important to pay attention to the local and state elections listed on your ballot. Local elections can have an even greater impact on your life than federal ones, especially related to topics of education, taxes, public safety, and so many others. 

If none of the issues at stake in this election seem particularly important to you personally, that itself is a privilege.

Think about the people whose basic rights depend on the decisions of our government.

These people are your neighbors and your peers. If not for yourself, vote for them. If not for them, vote for the countless generations who came before you, who were denied a voice and who fought for you to have the very rights you can now take for granted.

Your vote is a privilege, and with privilege comes power. That’s why your vote matters. Whatever your reason, whatever your stance, whatever box you check on your ballot: just vote.

Natasha is a senior from Nashville, TN, studying business at the University of Michigan. Outside of Her Campus, she's involved in Michigan Business Women and plays violin in an orchestra on campus.