Care to Vote?

Dani Schlenker, Opinion Columnist

Have you ever complained or made negative comments about our current governmental administration? If so, are you over 18? Are you registered to vote? Unless you are an international or otherwise undocumented student at Whitman College, there is no reason not to be registered. No matter your views, no matter your political affiliation, if you have a problem with how this country is being run, voting represents a chance to let your voice be heard.

Individuals may choose not to cast ballots for a variety of reasons. It’s a troubling time in our country; polarization is tearing communities apart, violence and hate are rearing their ugly heads, and lengthy federal investigations of high-ranking government officials also dominate the news cycle. It’s so easy to wake up in the morning and ignore the news, ignore the media bias and international scandals because you have a midterm or the waffle truck is open or you’ve just generally overbooked yourself, a fault of many Whitman students. At times we feel hopeless, unable to process events that seem so distant from our lives as relatively well-off, progressive-leaning students in our cozy little liberal arts bubble.

But there are so many people in our community, in Washington State, in our home states, who do not have the voice that we do. Who cannot speak up for themselves because they are not granted the right to. Maybe they weren’t born in America. Perhaps a criminal conviction stripped their right to vote. Or their life may have been lost in an encounter with a police officer gone horribly wrong. If you do not speak up for these people, if you do not choose to be a part of their fight, if you choose to do nothing, to waste your right to vote, to walk through our Whitman community without thought for the greater world, you are choosing the side of the oppressor.

Registering to vote and letting your voice be heard at the ballot box should simply be common sense. So why is it that I recently found myself at a table with registration papers, offering the chance to be an engaged American to fellow students in this crucial political era, and found myself being largely ignored? People walk by, they glance, they look away, they laugh or joke about it – all of which makes no sense to me. Maybe it makes you uncomfortable? Maybe you’re preoccupied with a recent soccer game or sorority recruitment event? Whatever the reason, you should be aware that, according to a survey conducted by the D.C.-based Public Religion Research Institute in June of this year, only 28% of young adults aged 18-29 stated with absolute certainty that they are voting in this year’s midterms, compared to 74% of senior citizens. That is less than a third of us! 72% of our generation is quietly lurking in the shadows, refusing to engage.

Voter apathy is real, and our generation is not resistant to its seductive wiles. If we want our community to be engaged in the greater world around us, if we consider ourselves to be students of higher learning, the simplest thing we must do is vote, and vote often. Someday we will leave this bubble, and the world will be waiting for us. What do we want it to look like?