Voting is exercising power

Illustration by Madison Cohen

Over a century ago, in 1872, at a polling booth in Rochester, New York, Susan B. Anthony was arrested and later brought to trial for attempting to vote in the presidential election.

Around the same time in Grand Rapids, Michigan, social justice advocate and former slave, Sojourner Truth demanded a ballot, but she was denied one.

For centuries, the battle for equal voting rights waged in the United States has seen women, minorities and the privileged voters sympathetic to their cause participate. These people risked their lives to spark social change.

How soon generations come to forget the struggle of their ancestors.

When it comes to voting as a college student, the election season brings an abundance of non-partisan tablers who might stop a student walking by the University Union or the South Quad to ask if they are registered to vote. This ends up becoming annoying come the end of October, however, it is important that these people are dedicating time to ensuring students realize that their voice must be used to shape the future of our society.

There’s nothing wrong with asking students if they are registered to vote on their way to class, even if it may seem bothersome and pushy. Someone needs to be the person to tell us naive and young college students that being registered to vote is a civic duty.

Our current society sees eligible voters decline to vote for numerous reasons: “The polling station is too far,” “I don’t know enough about the candidates,” “I’m too lazy to register,” “My vote doesn’t really make a difference.”

To the people who subscribe to these ridiculous excuses, that’s a shame.

Polling stations are conveniently located throughout all the states. If someone can road trip to Disneyland or the family cabin, they can get out and vote on Election Day. Information on candidates is blasted across TV screens for a year before Election Day, and an even more in-depth look is only a Google search away. Every vote makes a difference. Elections are determined one vote at a time. Registration is as simple as following prompts online.

There are no excuses.

Deciding not to vote is a slap in the face to all the people who died, spent time in jail or butchered their reputations to give the right to exercise democratic power to this generation. I can’t imagine sitting across from Susan B. Anthony and telling her I just don’t believe my vote matters.

As U.S. citizens, we are blessed to live in a nation where we have a say in who our leaders are. There are countries where people have to live their whole lives under the crippling reign of a ruler who they didn’t elect. At least when a U.S. president is elected, half the nation got their pick.

Thousands of American troops dedicate and risk their lives to defending our freedom. Declining to enjoy that freedom seems ridiculous to me when considering the people who believe the ability to vote is worth the risk of dying.

Voting is a crucial right of self-expression as well. Everyone has the right to support issues they care about and it’s as easy as checking a box on a ballot. One person can have the power to change the world with their vote. That is the power of democracy.

Former President Abraham Lincoln once said, “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”

There is power in one voice. One voice and one vote matters.