Rock the boat by rocking the vote

Rock+the+boat+by+rocking+the+vote

By Emma Goodwin

I’ve always prided myself on my insane amounts of patriotism. While I can never decide if our generation thinks it’s cool or not to openly love America, as per the common “’Merica” jokes, I’ve always proudly bled red (and white and blue).

Despite my unwavering support of our country, I don’t have very high faith in our government, otherwise known as political efficacy. I don’t feel like I have the power to change the things I want because, until now, I haven’t been old enough to vote.

But that will change on November 4. While my level of happiness with the government might not increase, I know that I’ll have a voice that will be heard in this year’s midterm election.

The 2014 elections are an opportunity to elect the Illinois Governor and other state officials, United States Congressional representatives and various county officials, among other positions. For a complete list of positions you will vote on in this county, you can go to the Champaign County Clerk website.

Almost everyone on this campus is eligible just by being 18 and older. It’s so easy to register on campus or online, so there’s no excuse to not vote and not have your opinions heard.

If you’ve ever taken a government class in high school or on campus, it should come as no surprise that the voting rates are devastatingly low. In the U.S., voting turnout dipped below 60 percent in 2012. In 2010, the last midterm election, the rate was 42 percent — the highest they had been since 1994. 

Meanwhile, in other democratic countries, it’s not uncommon for voting rates to reach 90 percent. 

We complain about the fact that the government isn’t representing the people of this country — that they aren’t doing anything helpful.

We forget that part of our civic privilege and responsibility is to vote in the elections and to change these complaints. The government doesn’t automatically hear the complaints we voice among our friends. 

The way they hear our concerns is through the boxes we check on a ballot.

Voting is something that magazines such as Cosmopolitan have tried to encourage with the #CosmoVotes campaign it launched on social media. They even have a campus contest to provide a bus to bring students to the polling center. They have been posting articles endorsing various candidates for the past few weeks as well.

The social media website Tumblr had voting registration information posted on their site on National Voter Registration day this past Tuesday.

There is also MTV’s Rock the Vote initiative that has been in place for over 20 years and encourages the young population to vote. 

The widespread and long lasting push to encourage youth to participate in elections acknowledges the low efficacy epidemic,  implying that if we want change, we have to change as well; we can’t just complain and expect results. 

We need to tell the government how to better itself.

Congress is more polarized and highly partisan compared to the rest of America.  Passionate, opinionated citizens turn out to the polling places, they have the voice and opportunity to polarize Congress, which doesn’t represent all American citizens’ opinions. 

Elections could have different outcomes with higher satisfaction rates if more people came out to the polls.

Not to mention the fact that youth voters make up 21 percent of the eligible voting population. In other words, we have power to sway elections, but often don’t vote, largely because many of us don’t know how to register. 

Well, we have no excuse. Almost every day, people stand on the Quad with clipboards giving students the opportunity to register. We have the option of filling out absentee ballots from our home town — this works for out-of-state students and U.S. students studying in different countries. 

We can register online in just a few steps. Go to Rock The Vote’s website and hit the register button to start.

Either way, do it fast. The deadline for registration in Illinois is October 7. 

If you want your voice heard, make sure to get your voting information in. Educate yourself about the different candidates, depending on what district you vote in.

This one day can change history and can change the way that laws are crafted during the next two years. This is critical especially considering all of the turmoil that could be surrounding our country any day.

If you don’t want to vote, understand that you have a voice and you aren’t using it. You’re allowing yourself to be muted rather than being proactive. We have to be the change we want to see, and that won’t work unless we cast a ballot.

Emma is a sophomore in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]