Just last night, my roommate and I heard voices in the hallway of our dorm, and then a knock on our door, followed by the question: “Have you registered to vote yet?” While we had both already registered to vote, many students living in our hall had not yet done so. Whether it seems to be too time-consuming, too complicated of a process, or simply not worth it, there are still a lot of students who have not registered to vote and do not intend to. As junior Alex Stallard said, “I think people don’t register to vote because they’re uninformed either about the registration process or politics as a whole.” There is also always the question of whether or not they are willing to invest their time and energy into the voting process, itself.
When questions of the value of voting come to mind, it’s easy to overlook the unique opportunity we have as citizens to voice our own opinions in important matters like elections. It may be a great opportunity, but can our votes impact election turnout? Is there any real reason to sacrifice the time, resources, and energy it takes both to register and to vote? According to the New York Times, voting can often feel “both important and utterly pointless” at the same time, and there are many reasons that Americans—and Radford students—tend to feel this way.
Among my peers, two factors seem to be consistent with those who justify their choice to refrain from voting. Firstly, there is always the all-important assumption that one vote will not make a difference in the grand scheme of things. While this line of thinking has some merit to it (the New York Times reminds us in an article that “there are a hundred million voters or so in U.S. presidential elections these days, [and] the probability that any one of them will decide the outcome is on the order of .00000001), I see it in a different light. Though individual votes may not make a difference on their own, what will make a difference is a large number of informed, aware voters who can select the best and most qualified candidate. Isn’t this the very definition of democracy? At some point, the people have to realize that the choice truly is theirs in the making!
A second limiting factor when it comes to voting is a general detachment when it comes to the issues at hand. When it comes to national elections, especially, the concerns in the spotlight are those areas that are currently either extraneous to or just not relatable to many college-aged or young adult students. Few 18-year-olds can be said to concern themselves very much at all with foreign policy matters or changes in social security. To combat this challenge, I think we need an increase in exposure and resources. We need to make sure people are informed so that we can be active participants in America’s democracy, no matter the topic. Like Stallard said, “If you don’t vote, then your voice isn’t heard—and that’s defeating the whole democratic process.” If we were more aware and more informed, maybe we would finally be able to see that if this generation does not begin to take issues into our own hands, no one will. And if no one takes responsibility, then there should be no room for complaints.
On Nov. 7, Radford students will have an opportunity to meet this responsibility head-on in the Radford General Election. The deadline for registration was Oct. 16, and for everyone who was able to register for the election successfully: I encourage you to get informed and to take this opportunity to voice your opinion on issues that may not affect you now, but will probably impact you in some way down the road. There are things we all wish we could change, and however you may view it, voting is one way of doing just that. It’s a mechanism for change, and it’s a way for us to strive to be better and do better constantly.