What’s in a Vote?

Why you should vote.

If you live in Pennsylvania there is about a 1/150,000,000 (1 out of 150 million) that your vote will determine the next President of the United States.

If you live in New York, there is a better chance of you winning the lottery 6,000 times in a row than you determining the next Commander in Chief.

Do I have you convinced yet?

Me neither.

Figures like these make a voter participation rate of 54% in 2012 seem less surprising.

But college aged voters are turning out at an even lower rate of 38%.  And this means are our ideas might go underrepresented.  This is especially bad because millennials are more likely to want a more fair and just society than our predecessors.

In fact, a 2014 survey found that the number one issue that millennials care about is equality.

These numbers show that neglecting to vote has a real cost.  Because we don’t vote, our politicians are less likely to represent us.  It’s not just theory, its the current reality.

83% of us believe all gun purchases should go through a criminal background check.  Yet, I could drive to Virginia tomorrow and buy a gun, no questions asked.

63% of Republican millennials believe marijuana should be legalized.  Bernie Sanders is the only candidate to agree.

73% of all millennials believe the government should provide retirement security for seniors.  But Social Security is on pace to run out of money by 2037 if nothing is done.

69% of us believe abortion should be a woman’s decision.  Meanwhile, all 13 Republican Presidential Candidates are vowing to defend Planned Parenthood.  We’ll turn our Facebook pictures pink, but will we show up and vote for what we believe?

Iowa kicks off the election season today.  The Republican Caucus looks to be a toss up between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.  The Democratic side looks close too, with Bernie Sanders specifically relying on college students to show up and caucus for him, as he has the majority of the support on college campuses.

Hopefully you plan on voting.  Different states vote on different days.  You can find out when your state votes here.

How you can vote.

There is a few things you should know before you register to vote.  First you should become as informed as you possibly can on the issues and your own beliefs.  Some personal favorites for unbiased political journalism are The Economist, 538 and Politico.  All three have Twitter accounts that make it easy to stay up to date on current issues and where politicians stand on them.

It should also be noted that many news outlets are known for a bias.  Media that typically lean to the right include: Fox News, The National Review and TheBlaze.  Noteable outlets that lean left include: The New York Times, MSNBC and The Washington Post.

While most people already have at least some idea which party they align with, before registering for a party you should also consider whether your state has a closed or an open primary system.

Closed primary systems only allow you to vote in the primary election for the party you are registered for.  Registered Democrats must vote in the Democratic primary.  The same goes for registered Republicans.  Independents don’t typically get to vote in closed primary states.

Open primary system states allow all registered voters to vote in the primary of their choice.  A registered Democrat can vote for Jeb Bush.  A registered Republican can vote for Hilary Clinton.

To see if your state is open or closed, refer back to this link.

Next step: register.

If you are already registered to vote you can go ahead and skip ahead to the absentee section below.

If you have not yet registered to vote first you must check to ensure you are eligible.

You are eligible to vote if:

  • You are a U.S. citizen.
  • You meet your state’s residency requirements.
  • You are 18 years old. Some states allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries and/or register to vote if they will be 18 before the general election.

If you are eligible to vote follow this link and select the state in which you live.

If you live in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina it’s too late for you to register for the primaries but you still have plenty of time before the general election.

If you live in any other state you can still register for the primaries but 12 states vote on March 1 registration is required in the next day or two.  Click here for a full list of registration timelines for each state.

Absentee Ballots

Many of us live far away from State College and don’t have the luxury to go home just to vote.  However, registered voters can apply for absentee ballots.

Frankly, absentee ballots can be somewhat of a pain.  But it’s worth it to have your voice heard.

You can find the application for an absentee ballot for your state here.  Once you fill out the form send it in to the county in which you are registered and they will send you back an absentee ballot in which you can place your official vote for the candidate of your choosing.

Mail the ballot back to the county and pat yourself on the back.  You’ve officially practiced your right to vote.

Be proud of your vote and encourage your friends to vote too.  If we want our politicians to reflect the ideology of millennials we have to vote for the ones who align with our fundamental beliefs.

Our generation has the power to create the equitable  world that we believe in.  Many of us dream of world peace, the end of absolute poverty and a more green future.  That all starts with a vote.

About Nathan Golden (9 Articles)
Nathan is a junior at Penn State studying economics and education policy and not in that order. In his spare time he enjoys having his heart broken by all his favorite sports teams, especially every Buctober. When he's not weeping because of a bad sports loss, he can be found ranting to somebody who doesn't care at a party about contemporary issues in education. He will be heading to Hong Kong this summer to teach low-income high school students economics and hopes to teach math full time when he graduates.

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  1. Lessons From Hong Kong: Are protests effective for change? – undergroundvoices.co

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