Why should students use their votes?

Emma Lee, Contributing Writer

Growing up in America means having inalienable rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition. No other right might be as symbolic and important as our right to vote. We live in a democracy in which our representation relies on us voicing our opinions through our vote. While it feels like a divisive moment in our country’s history, this right and responsibility is not a partisan one and it is essential that our voices as college students, no matter what our political affiliation, is heard. We represent a unique demographic which is not reflected by the makeup of our elected officials, therefore it is up to us to use our vote to represent ourselves and the issues we find most important. Generation Z, those born after 1996, is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in America yet. According to NPR, nearly half of Gen Z identifies as being a person of color; by simply looking at a photo of the US House and Senate it is clear that this is anything but the case- nearly 80% of congress is white. 

According to Quorum and Bloomberg, 48 senators are above the age of 65 and 147 Representatives in the House are above the age of 65. While this number skews lower as you look at governors and more locally-elected officials, it is startling to think that our congress does not look remotely close to our generation’s demographic. Even including millennials in the count, 1/3 of representatives are over 60 and represent districts with a median age of 35 or less. While older politicians can still be effective and successful leaders, it is unrealistic to think that an elected official of such contrasting age would be as aware of the issues which concern us, which is why it is pertinent we represent ourselves and voice our opinion through our votes.  

Not only do the policies of our elected officials affect us now, but certain policies will have reverberating effects as we enter the workforce, namely economic policies. It is unlikely a 65-year-old senator is thinking as much about student loan rates or debt from higher education as much as you are. If you haven’t thought much about healthcare before, it’s time you start thinking about it, because if Obamacare is repealed it is unlikely you will be able to stay on your parent’s insurance until you are 26. If you’ve never listened to the pharmacist when picking up a script or going to the doctor when paying, let me tell you know that the price of medical care before copay is expensive, and I mean expensive.  

Within our lifetime we have seen temperatures rise, storms increase in frequency, with growing numbers of people already forced to leave their homes due to environmental disaster. It is scientifically proven and an unavoidable truth that climate change is altering our planet and the consequences are going to be bequeathed to us. If we want a world that our children and future generations can safely grow up in, we need to do something now. While individual and collective action does make a difference, we need the force of sweeping national policy and regulation to curb emissions and put in place sustainable practices. 

If you’ve ever heard or thought that your vote doesn’t matter, think again- President George W. Bush beat Al Gore by a total of 537 votes, that margin is so small, that if only one quarter of the Union’s student body went out and voted, the results could have been much different. Historically, younger voters are underrepresented. In 2012 voters between 18-29 made up 15.4% of the voting population even though they represented 21.2% of the eligible population. If you feel disillusioned just remember that you are voting for your future, nothing will change unless we make it happen. Go out and vote, no one is going to represent your voice like you, it is your right, and it matters.