Student life is all consuming at times, which makes it easy to forget about the big picture of life. The reality is that everything from the president, congress, the state governor, down to your local mayor are always passing laws that directly affect every students’ daily life.
Even if it seems trivial now, no one is in college forever. When students enter the workforce everything will clearly have a more direct effect on you. Not to mention any good U.S. Government teacher would tell you it’s your civic duty, but in case you didn’t have one before, check out a few reasons below!
Decide the future you live in yourself.
Whomever is elected into office affects students the greatest. The average college student typically falls in the youngest voter demographic. This may depend from study to study but generally falls from somewhere from 18 into the mid to late 20’s. This means the consequences of each bill passed (or not passed) will affect students the most as they will often live long after who wrote the bill, passed the bill, and even the president who has the power to pass and veto laws.
While elected officials may be doing their best to govern the country as whole it doesn’t mean they are focusing on the issues students care about. Not because students don’t matter, but because students consistently have the lowest voter turnout. Like it or not, votes are what gets lawmakers and presidents elected so when students don’t go out to vote their issues go by the wayside.
To break this idea down consider the Social Security Act. It was enacted as a part of the Green Deal to pull the United States out of the Great Depression. Social security works on the premise workers pay in a certain percent of their paycheck now and when a person hits retirement age (which is as early as age 62) they can receive their money back from people who are currently working. Kind of like a minimal retirement plan built into workers’ paycheck. When the program started there were enough workers to retirees to sustain itself. In 1945 there 41 workers for every one retiree which was enough to sustain itself. This ratio has gone down significantly over the decades as of 2010 it’s 2.9 workers for every one retiree when the system needs an average 3 workers to continue paying the retirees. Unfortunately this number is only projected to continue going down. There was extra money from when there was a surplus of workers, but it’s estimated to run out by 2033.
If the system becomes unsustainable the money will have to come from taxpayer dollars. To eliminate the option of an added tax that will further strain taxpayers or redirect the flow of funds the older generation typically proposes cuts to social security, social security cuts are suggested. This would affect people already on social security getting reduced benefits, but more so it’ll mean every student who’s working and paying in will never see a dime of that money back. Since retirees are already receiving these benefits they are less likely to care about the younger generations getting it making a possible nonessential voter issue for their age group despite its massive effect on all United States citizens. As well a seemingly easy sacrifice for those elected who can rely upon the government retirement plan. It’s a tempting short-sided fix.
What the government does about Social Security is just one of many topics where the legislature voted on now that will affect what happens in the long run. There’s also global warming, climate change, using clean energy, and student loan debt.
Additionally voting will help refine your political stances. There are often laws enacted that many citizens do not really think about even though they affect our daily life. like the Clean Air Act of 1970. This provides a shift in the federal government’s power in air quality control. Who doesn’t like clean air, right? The bill overall presents as generally favorable although some believe grants the federal government too much power. President Trump just recently amended the act to lift certain government control. Not everyone knows they have a stance on air quality control until they find out about the legislation on it.
The Right to Complain
Does the president ever do something that bothers you? Do you disagree with how the government spends your tax dollars? Are you tired of unfull-filled campaign promises? Ever feel there isn’t enough change or that the government doesn’t work hard enough for you? Be these things as they may, unless you take action to change it. When you don’t vote you let a minority of people decide your fate for you- In this case silence is compliance.
It’s a touch hypocritical to complain about those in power but not vote as an adult. Especially given not everywhere in the do people have the right to choose who governs them. It’s as simple as registering to vote, staying informed, and going out to your local polling place during election day. Even if you're working on election day most states require employers to give their workers time to go out and vote.
Not everyone has the privilege to vote
The American value is that all men were created equal and should have a voice on how they are governed. Actually it’s what the American Revolution was literally about-- taxation without representation. However there are still countries that don’t have elections like Saudi Arabia and Oman. There are also a few countries with one party elections meaning their government is basically fused with one with a specific party making it difficult for lack of better words to change the governing style. Examples with places with one party governments are China, Cuba, North Korea, and Laos.
Furthermore not everyone always had the right to vote in the United States. In the 1700’s voting was limited to male landowners; it wasn’t until the 1800’s these restrictions laxed. While the constitution stated all men were created equal this wasn’t really true until slaves were liberated by the 13th amendment, becoming citizens by the 14th amendment, and finally getting the right to vote with the 15th amendment. Although don’t be fooled, there were Jim Crow laws that still tried to deprive black citizens of the right to vote after that. Women didn’t get the right to vote until the 19th amendment was ratified in 1919.
Not to mention that there have been poll taxes to try to subvert poor people from voting, thankfully the 24th amendment put an end to that. Actually the voting age was only recently lowered in the 1960's because of the active draft during the Vietnam war. The law making bodies decided that if you can die for your country you should at least get the right to vote. The Voting Rights Language passed in 1975 protected citizens who spoke little to no English and gave them the right to vote. In 1982 congress required states to make voting more accessible to the elderly and disabled.
Also just because you’re 18 doesn’t mean you get to keep your right to vote forever. In the United States you can lose the right to vote or be disfranchised in two different ways depending on what state you live in. There are three main statuses on whether or not convicted felons have the right to vote which are as follows: permanent loss of suffrage, temporary loss of suffrage during incineration as well as a short time after (usually while on parole), loss of the right to vote only during incarceration. Now only in Maine and Vermont do criminals never lose the right to vote.
Additionally, states have varying laws on whether or not the mental state of a person can revoke a person’s right to vote. Reasons a personal might not be deemed fit to vote are are, but not limited to: mentally incompetent to vote, not of sound mind, leagally insane, and incapable of understanding the act of voting.
Every vote counts
No matter what you may hear every vote counts! Did you know that Richard Nixon would have become President of the U.S. in 1960 if one person from each voting place had voted differently? Did you also know on the last election day only 58% of eligible voters voted? Nearly half of the people who stayed home had the power to shift the tides of a close election. In the last election certain swings states would have been flipped by 1-2%. If young people had turned out in high numbers on election day perhaps Hiliary would have won the electoral college.
Last but certainly not least students should vote just for the sticker. Honestly there aren't many stickers and gold stars in high school assignments let alone in college. Besides how often is normalized for adults to be wearing stickers? There’s voting and occasionally getting the flu-shot. Outside of that your sticker opportunities are slim to none. Other phenomenal pros of the “I voted” sticker:
- They are patriotic.
- You can flex on all of your other friends who did not vote.
- Visible way to signal to others you have voted- no need for the small chit chat about it
- They elevate almost any outfit you wear.
- Make for a good social media post- this is admittedly flexing on your friends, but with extra steps and a broader audience that includes acquaintances, coworkers, and more.
Voting has its perks
Surviving on a college budget is all about being thrifty. Savvy students know that there are plenty of perks to voting beyond civic engagement. There are lots of businesses out there who offer special rewards, discounts, and promotions for voters, including:
- OCM. Take $10 off your order on election day.
- Kirspy Kreme. On election day, wearing your "I voted" sticker will score you a fresh, hot donut at participating Krispy Kreme donut shops. Talk about a sweet deal!
- California Tortilla. Figuring out lunch on election day is nacho problem. California Tortilla supports voters by handing out free chips and queso.
- Lyft. Lyft users will receive a discount on election day offering a discount (up to $10 off) a one-way car, scooter, or bike share ride to polling places anywhere in the U.S. when riders use the promo code 2020VOTE. Lyft is also working with nonprofit organizations like the Black Women's Roundtable, the National Federation for the Blind, and the Student Veterans of America to distribute additional discount codes or free rides within their communities.
- Uber. Uber has announced that it will release a discount for voters looking for a convenient way to reach their polling place in October.
- Lime. Is ride sharing your jam? Lime is offering a free ride to the polls, up to 30 minutes long, by providing access to their fleet of shared bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters.
- Citi Bike. In New York and New Jersey, Citi Bike rides are free on Election Day. Citi Bike announced on Twitter that by entering the code BIKETOVOTE in the Citi Bike app, riders can claim a free day pass on the bikes.
- Shake Shack. Shake Shack is offering a free order of crinkle-cut French fries with any purchase on Election Day. Voters can walk in and flaunt their “I Voted” sticker or use the Shake Shack app to redeem the offer.
- YMCA. Need help finding childcare on election day? The Y has your back. Participating locations offer up to two hours of free childcare for members and nonmembers with children aged 2 years and older.
How to Register to Vote
Registering to vote is the first step in making your voice heard. The process varies from state to state, so it's important to find accurate information on voter registration where you live. Luckily, there are lots of voter resources out there that break down how to register to vote, request an absentee ballot, find your polling place, and more.
Check out Five Thirty Eight's voting information project for a state-by-state guide to voting registration.
It takes less than 2 minutes to register to vote. If you aren't sure whether or not you're registered, you can check here.
Your Biggest Voting Questions, Answered
So you know voting is important and how to register to vote in your state: both important but you might find yourself with other questions about how to vote in the upcoming election. We've gathered voting FAQs from college students around the country, and we've got answers!
Can I register to vote if I don’t have a driver’s license?
YES. While all states require a driver’s license identification number or non-drivers ID number on the voter registration form, if you don’t have a driver’s license and have not been issued a non-driver state ID card, states will accept the last four digits of your social security number (except in KY, TN, and VA where you should give your full SSN).
What do I need to register to vote?
In most states you need (1) an address from which you plan to vote, and (2) an ID number – either a current and valid driver’s license or your social security number, if you don’t have the former.
Arizona also requires proof of citizenship. In Arizona, this means you need to provide an Arizona driver’s license or state ID number (issued after October 1, 1996), or documentary proof such as a birth or naturalization certificate along with the registration application.
In Wisconsin, all voters need to provide a proof of residency when you register to vote. Proof of residency can include a valid in-state driver’s license with your current address or recent official mail with your name and address. South Carolina and Vermont also require proof of residency documentation if you register to vote by mail.
In most states, if you have neither a current driver’s license or state-issued ID, and have never been issued a social security number, you can still register by indicating on the registration form that you have neither identification number. Some may require an affidavit or other documentation.
Do I need to pick a party when I register to vote?
NO. However, some states require that you be enrolled with a party to vote in that party’s primary election. If you do not choose a party, enter “No party” on your voter registration form. To find out more information regarding your state’s political parties, visit the HeadCount Voter Info Hub or your state election website.
Should I register to vote in my home state or college state?
You can register to vote in either your home state or where you attend college, but you cannot be registered in both locations. If you decide to register in your home state, you need to plan sign up for an absentee ballot. Absentee ballot regulations vary based on where you live. Be sure to research your state’s required process. Regardless, you will have the right to vote in the state of your choosing, as long as you have a temporary or permanent residence there.
Does where I register to vote affect my scholarships, financial aid, or in-state tuition status?
Your voting registration will not affect your financial aid or in-state tuition status. There is a slight chance that where you register to vote could affect your eligibility for certain state and private scholarships and grants, if you have received those scholarships and grants from organizations or agencies in your home state. Your school’s financial aid office should be able to provide additional information. In most cases, if your in-state or out-of-state residency does not change, your scholarships should not change either.
Do I have to change my drivers license when I register to vote?
Not necessarily, though depending on your state, you may need to present an official document with your name and current address on it. If your address has changed, you may need to provide your polling location with documentation that verifies your change of address. In most states, this documentation can be a utility bill or paycheck with your current address on it. As of this writing, 39 states will let you register online right now and/or request your absentee ballot.
When it boils down to it, voting informed is the best thing any responsible citizen can do not only for their own future, but the future of their country.