Our generation holds the cards: deal us in to democracy

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • September 29, 2016

At issue: This election is imperative to the future of the free world.
Our take: The privilege to vote is a right we ought to exercise.
 
On the heels of the presidential debate Monday night, the Berkeley Beacon has decided it is not only timely, but imperative that we take advantage of this platform to encourage voter registration. No matter whom one votes for, this election will usher in a term of change.

As millennials, the college students’ vote is especially important. Currently, there are more millennials than baby boomers—making this the first time in decades that a potential voter base has enough political capital to vote against the older generation. In the past, the voter turnout rate for the youth vote and closer age groups has been dishearteningly low. To be accurate, it’s actually the lowest of any other age group. In the last presidential election, only 42 percent stepped up to the polls. This pattern cannot continue if millennials want to have a say in their future democracy.

But why should every other generation have a higher turnout? If we want our values and our visions for the country to be taken seriously, then we need to participate in democracy. And not just participate, but prepare. It’s essential to show up, but coming educated is even more important. Poke around the internet for a few hours and investigate the candidates’ platforms. Learn about their careers, their families, and their pasts. Read about their values and the legislation and causes they’ve advocated for. Look into their candidacy, beyond the memes prancing around social media. It’s important to do your grown-up homework—especially because most of us will be paying our college loans soon.

It’s a right we ought to exercise, but it’s also a rather exciting affair. Close your eyes and hark back to the first time you visited the polls with a parent or older sibling. You’re in a high school gymnasium or a community center, the ceilings are high, the voting booths are neatly lined up, stately, and exuding election spirit. It’s quiet. You pick up your ballot, poised for your democratic stroke. Welcome to voting in America. It feels good. And it’s the first time our generation gets to experience this together.

And look, we understand that many young voters are disenchanted with both presidential candidates. But even if you can’t bring yourself to vote for either Hillary or Donald, there’s so much more at stake on November 8 than commander-in-chief. Governors, senators, and representatives!

Twelve states, including nearby Vermont and New Hampshire, are about to elect new governors. In the senate, 34 seats are up for grabs, including one each in bordering Vermont, Connecticut, New York, and New Hampshire. As always, all 435 congressional districts will vote on representatives, with competitive districts in states such as California, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, and, of course, New Hampshire. And hey—maybe you don’t care about politicians, but you do care about marijuana legalization (we are in college). Question four on the Massachusetts ballot deals with exactly that.

It takes more than good intentions and candidate research to participate in an election. Making a plan to cast a vote is essential; an unexpected holdup is not an excuse for skipping the election. Those with a Massachusetts address (that includes the dorms and off-campus apartments) can register online before Oct. 19 to vote here in Boston. Each voter should be aware of their assigned polling station—and how the location will fit into their schedule. Those voting absentee should be sure to know their state’s registration policies. For example, New Hampshire requires voters to both register and sign up to vote absentee in person with their town clerk. This election is a big deal, so we should all take the time to ensure our ballots will be cast.

This election, for better or worse, is imperative to the future of younger generations. It is more important to us than anyone else—the older generations, who have a statistically higher voter turnout, will not carve out their futures based on the decisions the United States makes this November. Each candidate paints a very different image of what our country could be. It’s up to us to decide which image becomes reality.