Do you remember where you were on Tuesday, Nov. 8th, 2016? I do. I remember it very vividly—and I think most people do. Whatever political ideology you ascribe to—or even if you consider yourself apolitical—the 2016 election probably impacted you in some way. For me, I was very politically active in high school, but I grew tired of the increasingly partisan nature of politics. As debates turned into screaming matches, and no one would hear each other's side with an open mind, politics and voting turned into something I felt I just needed to take a break from.
As the 2020 election cycle heats up, it’s hard not to pay attention or feel drawn to participate. Our generation has a lot at stake, but we also have the most potential power to influence our democracy. In the United States, 18-29 year olds are the largest and most diverse group of people alive. That being said, we are also the least likely group to turn out to vote. In 2018, for instance, 31 percent of eligible young voters (18-29 years old) cast a ballot, compared to an average of 50 percent for the entire population of eligible voters as recorded by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. Candidates take advantage of this trend by catering more to the concerns of older voters, leaving us stuck with a variety of problems and issues we will need to address with more urgency as we grow older. The cost of college, the effects of climate change, and switching to renewable energy are among the most important issues our generation is faced with about. There is no reason why should not be at the forefront of every political debate.
Hearing statistics like these remind me that voting is not only your right as an American citizen, but also your duty to be a part of the political system. If we all vote, we will be better represented by our elected officials who represent us and our concerns. One of the best ways to make changes that will last in the American government is to vote for those who will represent your ideals most accurately.
Misrepresentation in any level of government can be one of the most damaging things to the strength of a democracy. Every aspect of your life is affected by who is elected to represent you at every level of government. Misrepresentation leads to bad laws, misappropriated funds, and possibly a power imbalance within a legislative body. Voting is the solution to this issue, and reaching this solution is perfectly attainable.
After the 2016 election, I did take a hiatus from politics. But I quickly realized that I couldn’t just sit on the sidelines. Instead of picking a side and debating, I’ve come to the realization that the most important thing is for more people to engage in politics, not which party you’re voting for. The way I do that is getting anyone and everyone registered to vote.
I am really proud to lead MASSPIRG’s New Voters Project campaign this year for these reasons. Furthermore, I am proud of MASSPIRG as an organization because of their commitment to strengthening our democracy by helping to register young people to vote. In the last decade, MASSPIRG has helped register 35,000 students to vote in Massachusetts and over 4,000 of those are from UMass Boston. And MASSPIRG doesn’t just help register people to vote; we also have helped pass policies that have made online voting, early voting, and automatic voter-registration possible.
My hope is that from now on, I can encourage as many people as possible to register, and then exercise their right to vote whenever they can. So if you are not registered to vote, do so as soon as possible! If you do not know how, find someone in the UMass Boston Vote Coalition, (which includes MASSPIRG, UMB College Republicans, UMB College Democrats, and the Undergraduate Student Government), and we will walk you through it at one of our events this year.