Our Generation and Why You Need to Vote

By Danielle Shade
Campus Vote Project

The November election offered a chance to make decisions on important issues facing this country and who will be in charge of making those decisions.

For Pennsylvania students, there are many issues important to our generation, such as recent cuts in higher education funding, the rising cost of college, the economy and health care. It is essential that as college students we make our voices heard.  Demonstrating our commitment to our future and our community requires that we cast our votes each election.

For many of us, this will be the first election in which we voted. However, young people, including college students, don’t vote at the same rate as our parents and grandparents. In 2008, 67% of those 30 and older turned out to vote while only 48.5% of those between 18 and 24 years old voted.

Given that young people are less likely to vote than other age groups—particularly seniors who have the highest turnout of any age group—is it surprising that legislators chose cuts to higher education over cuts to Medicare? If you don’t vote, you can’t complain when politicians look past issues you care about.

Part of the reason students are less likely to vote is that we face several unique challenges to casting our ballot that other age groups don’t face. For many of us, we have moved to a new community to go to college. We’re new to voting, so we don’t know the registration process, when to vote, where to vote or what ID, if any, is needed to vote. Some of us are confused about whether we can vote in our college community or if we need to go back home to vote.

Additionally, some politicians have sought partisan advantage by making it harder for students to vote through increased barriers to registration and requiring IDs that students often don’t have.

Pennsylvania lawmakers passed a law earlier this year that required a photo ID to vote that excluded most student IDs issued by Pennsylvania schools. Fortunately, a judge ruled that the law would not be in effect for this recent election. Poll workers still asked for you to show a photo ID but, if you did’t have one, you could still vote a regular ballot. If you were voting for the first time ever or voting at a new polling place for the first time, you still needed to show some form of ID, but it did not have to be a photo ID.

We can’t let a lack of information or cynical politicians stop us from voting. Voting is the most American thing we can do and it’s our responsibility as citizens of the world’s leading democracy to cast our ballot. With so many important issues facing us, we need students to vote so we have a say in our future.

The Campus Vote Project—a project that is working with campuses to implement programs and policies that encourage students to vote—is reaching out to campuses across the country and throughout Pennsylvania to get students the information they need to register and to vote.

For more information about voting in Pennsylvania or information on voting in another state, check out the student voter guides that are available through the Campus Vote Project at www.campusvoteproject.org/studentguides.

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