EDITORIAL: Be woke, especially when you vote

At issue: The approaching midterm election

Our take: Educate yourselves—then vote

 

Despite our activist culture, most Emerson students did not turn out at the polls during the last midterm election. In 2014, approximately 1 out of 10 eligible Emerson students voted, according to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement. In other terms, only 11 percent of Emerson students voted while 65 percent were registered to vote. With the current political climate, we can’t depend on that 11 percent.

Going to the polls and voting is undeniably important. However, voters must inform themselves. Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University, found in his book, Democracy and Public Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smart, that only 34 percent of Americans can name all three branches of government. This dismal statistic represents a larger mask of political ignorance. Many citizens do not understand the workings of the government and the platforms of those within this system.

Nonetheless, this ignorance does not equate apathy. With campaigns like the Parkland teens’ #VoteThemOut, the percentage of registered voters is actually rising, according to political data firm TargetSmart. Before these new voters flock to the polls, they should not only become educated on Congressional candidates, but judges, commissioners, and ballot questions as well.

A breadth of information lies virtually everywhere on phones, laptops, and TVs. A Pew Research Center survey found 75 percent of Americans are better informed on national news because of the Internet. Now is the time to extend this knowledgeability to political issues and candidates. One way voters can ensure their vote represents their voice is to educate themselves on issues important to them.

For example, if you’re a Massachusetts resident—according to Emerson’s website, 20 percent of first-year students are from New England—there aren’t just electoral races to consider. While major races include that of governor, attorney general, state treasurer, U.S. senator, and U.S. House Representative, there are also three ballot questions.

Question 1 proposes a limit to how many patients are assigned to a nurse, with the limit depending on the hospital department. Voters are split on the issue—a vote yes supports the limit, a vote no opposes it. Unions claim it’ll improve nurses’ well-being and safety, while many hospital groups allege the limits are so rigid and expensive that it may affect daily functioning and even cause smaller hospitals to close. Question 2 proposes the formation of an unpaid, nonprofit citizens’ commission to overlook political spending and corporate rights with the intention of overturning the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Question 3—arguably the most contentious—is a veto referendum on a 2016 anti-discrimination law ensuring access to public spaces regardless of gender identity. A vote yes would keep the current law in place, while a vote no would repeal it. Opponents claim the law’s current language is too broad and opens up the chance for crime, while supporters argue it’s a basic guarantee of human rights.

One’s political party affiliation should not discourage them from voting in this midterm election. Nothing and no one should dissuade a student from voting, even if their political ideologies don’t align with other Emerson students. During a time of fervent political polarization, some may feel their views aren’t valid or worth projecting in a heavily partisan environment. This mindset is dangerous, as it assumes one’s voice is dependent on its accordance to others. A healthy democracy can only prevail when individuals of all political parties and viewpoints participate in the most fundamental civic duty–voting.

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