Do more than vote

Voting is one of the most essential part of our democratic process. By casting your vote in an election you get to lend your voice and show people what you want the outcome to be. Your voice, and your vote have the ability to change the conversation happened around an issue based on the outcome of the election. While voting is essential and vital to our democracy we often find ourselves confused about how to engage with politics outside of the voting booth. After we leave the polls what can we do to ensure our voices are heard?

Politics is one of the last institutions telling young people to wait their turn to get involved. Instead of building us up and giving us avenues to engage, states schedule primaries near students spring breaks to decrease voter turnout. Many college students register to vote in their college town and not their permanent residence. Passports are expensive, and that creates barriers for out of state students. North Carolina requires a person to show a government ID, driver's license or passport, when you vote. If you are an out of state student in North Carolina trying to vote you need to bring your passport to the polls. Passports are expensive, so this creates barriers for students who can't afford a passport or even drive to the polls. 

Instead of creating barriers to entry we need avenues to engage. Young people make up 31% of the electorate in this upcoming elections. Elected offices need to create youth liaison positions, so our voices can be represented at the table and our ideas considered. We should lower the voting age to 16 in municipal and state elections, so young people can see how local government shaped their life. States should consider automatic voter registration to insure everyone of age can participate in voting. If they don't do that, they should reinstate same day registration and other early voting reforms that were around before the Supreme Court slashed the Voting Rights Act.

Even with the barriers to voting there is more you can do. Democracy only works if people engage with the process. We can elect people to represent us, but we need to hold them accountable to our values and desires once they get into office. Meet with your elected officials and talk to them about the problems you see, and bring solutions they can take into consideration. This year, we’ve seen student lobby our city council to bring back ride-share services to give students more options to get home at night. Even on campus we have an opportunity to hold people accountable. On Tuesday, we elected new executives and senators to our student government association. Even if the results didn’t turn out in your favor you still have a responsibility to make sure the elected follow through on their campaign promises, and put pressure on them to actually implement their programs.

You have a voice with your vote. You have a voice with your actions. Make sure you use your voice to make a better world around you. 

Madelyn Schorr is a senior majoring in art and anthropology. Her column runs biweekly.

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