By Nancy Bowne
I never thought I would be getting daily reminders from Discord and Instagram to check my voter registration. Considering I have been registered since the beginning of freshman year, I knew that I would want to check and update my status just to be safe. After all, I thought I was fully registered this time last year, and it turns out my absentee ballot never made it to Wolfe Hall.
When I think about the last fall election, I realized that I actually wrote an article last year for The Signal titled, “Students should be more motivated to vote.” I talked about how I was shocked that students were unfazed with the election, stating it didn’t exactly matter whether they voted.
Whether or not it’s because 2020 is a presidential election, this year is quite different due to people’s sudden enthusiasm toward voting. Social media is crammed up with “check registration here,” “important dates listed below” and “make your vote count” graphics. It’s the new aesthetic as people exchange memes, argue age-old debates on the electoral college, swing states, voting accessibility and voter fraud. You know, just the conversations we have every four years: “when it matters.”
People everywhere are emphasizing the importance of voting — even my Catholic church mentioned during a weekly service that there is assistance in registering. But why now?
People are scared. Suddenly the stakes seem high and we are in a vulnerable, uncertain state for the future. But here’s the thing: voting “to save” your country is not necessarily going to work in the long run. Unless we hold the government accountable on every other day of the year, not just when things get hairy for us, change will never happen.
Politics have become a glamorized fanfare of bipartisan, side-taking competition of “us versus them.” We like debates and drama. It essentially gives people content to post about on social media to express outrage.
But the issue with getting people motivated to vote is not an issue you can be for or against. Almost everyone, from any party or background, would tell you that voting matters and it’s important. It’s about actually taking action. Do you want to see the systemic change that’s required?
I’ve gathered some good insight from “Environmental Policy,” a political science class that I am taking this semester. People typically only start to care about issues when they see their rights and lifestyle in possible danger, like polluted parks, dirty waterways or even natural disasters. But voting is also similar to environmental policy, because no one would outwardly say they are against it. Sure, we love the environment. But when will we be consistent to stand by it and commit to its activism in order to see change?
So however this election may result on the evening of Nov. 4, please remember that this is never over. Voting isn’t a holiday blowout sale, or maybe more realistically, a trip to the grocery store before a hurricane, where you scoop up the deals you want in your cart for your own self preservation and skedaddle out of the store as fast as possible. People can vote every year, as well as reflect their public opinion throughout the year.
I feel a little nostalgic reading my piece from last year, thinking of how so much was different. But I know that some of the same issues still exist, like political division and general policy agreement. I sincerely value how so many resources are now available to help with voting and registration, especially during a time when in-person polls aren’t as accessible. But it can’t just be at the top of our feed for these couple of months and then disappear as unnecessary and pointless for the next three and a half years.
Local politics are where you can see direct change. The true purpose of voting is to have a voice as a true member of a community. Utilize that all the time, because it is too large of a privilege and responsibility to be taken lightly every four years.