In the midst of exams and projects, it can be easy to forget that election day is just around the corner. Even though the president won’t be on the ballot this Nov. 4, voting this cycle will be more important than ever.
It is not surprising that voter turnout takes a big hit during midterm elections. Without the national hype of a two-horse-race, many people feel that their vote does not accomplish much in the off years. However, the notion that less than four in 10 voters decided the 2010 midterm election nationally is quite troubling to me. Considering that it only takes a majority of those who made it to the polls to decide an election, midterms are an excellent time for a very small amount of Americans to decide the future of the country.
As technology and mail-in voting make it easier for citizens to have their voices heard, college students face a number of challenges when it comes to voting. Unlike presidential years, voter registration drives have not been prevalent on campus. Remembering to register when many states have different deadlines and requirements can be tricky at best. Yet even for those already registered, the hurdles of voting while at college can be great. Whether you are trying to receive your ballot in the mail with enough time to post it back before the election or attempting to find the polling stations in Galesburg for the first time, things aren’t exactly laid out for you.
It is crucial to take a few minutes and figure out exactly how you are going to make sure your vote is counted in November. For me, this will consist of calling my parents to ask for their speedy sending of my mail-in ballot that should be arriving in a couple of days. For others, this may mean filling out absentee ballot requests, looking up precinct locations or arranging a trip to cast your vote in person. Whatever the effort, remember that midterm elections are especially prone to outside groups dominating the conversation. Simply by voting you are attacking the ability of these groups to sway the election in their favor.
With all that said, the hardest part of election season is still to come. All the work we put into securing our right to vote is wasted if we are not informed on the issues. It is easy to get caught up in the negative rhetoric of campaign season, but a quick search can tell you a lot about what your candidates really feel.
Voting records and many campaign contributions are still in the public records, making it easier than ever to see if you are supporting a candidate that cares about your interests. I encourage everyone to take an extra look at how their candidate does with donations under the $250 mark. A high number of smaller donations means a candidate is receiving their financing more from the people rather than corporate interests.
We spend a lot of our time on campus focusing on larger social issues and problems within our various communities. It is important that this awareness not be lost when we are looking to elect the representatives that lead our government. At a certain point, we must ask ourselves if the people we are casting our votes for are concerned about the real struggles being discussed on our campus daily.
Becoming an active citizen requires work and a bit of research, but our liberal arts education means nothing if we do not rise to the challenge.