As someone that is engaged in politics, passionate about advocacy and dedicated to creating legislation to improve the well-being of marginalized communities, it is quite ironic that I only just registered to vote.
The last day to register to vote in New York was October 12, and just like many of my homework assignments, I waited until that day to do it. I have been of voting age for well over a year now, and just never had the stamina to take the few minutes it took to register. I pulled out my state ID, typed in a few numbers and then all of a sudden I was registered. After the satisfaction of finally checking a task off my list, I then had to stop and think to myself if I will actually bring myself to vote.
If we know we should, why aren’t people voting? Considering how divided our country is over the current administration, the voter turnout for the 2016 elections were quite upsetting. Only 58.1 percent of our voting eligible population voted in the presidential election. People unhappy with the results continuously asked themselves how Donald Trump won, and this can be attributed to the large amount of voters he rallied from commanding demographics such as rural Americans, swing states and the white female population. There was also a sharp decline in black voter turnout, where only 59.6 percent of black voters voted in the presidential election, a 7 percent decrease from 2012. Because lack of diversity of voters, the election resulted in an administration that may not be working in the best interest of some marginalized groups.
In the upcoming elections for 2018, there are a number of races coming up at the federal, state and local level. Numerous Mayors, 36 state governors, three U.S. territory governors, one third of the Senate, and all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
These are the people with detrimental power. The electoral college system they work within, distorts the one-person-one-vote principle of democracy, as these people represent carefully carved out regions of America. Even if the general public doesn’t want to see someone in the Oval Office, it is our representatives votes that decides who the next president of one of the strongest nations will be. So, if we know the midterms are important, why don’t we vote?
Another underrepresented group is the youth. If millennial such as myself are becoming increasingly conscious of the political turmoil occurring in this country — regardless of their preferred political party — then why are we not turning out? Millennial voting rates have never exceeded 50 percent, even for candidates like Obama or Sanders. We see students quarter-carding and setting up tables along Ho Plaza, telling us that “Your vote and your voice matter!”, yet students keep pushing along. The apathy associated with voting and the intense indignation related to politics clashes, and has resulted in a generation of young adults who have all of the verve to tweet about a problem, but not to actually do something about it.
So again I ask, why don’t we vote? The biggest problem with the voting process is accessibility. Although it took me a few minutes to register to vote at the deadline, the voting process that comes after can be quite complicated. Things like lack of access to unbiased and easy-to-understand information on all candidates, to voter suppression, leaves people who are actually disadvantaged — and would benefit from representation — unable to vote.
This doesn’t fail to be present in an Ivy League institution like Cornell. Many students haven’t done their own research, or been provided with the research, on political candidates that align best with their personal interests. Nationally, there are eligible voters who don’t even know what they are voting for if it is not for another president.
I asked my friends from all over the U.S. if they have voted before. For many, the answer is no; they missed the deadline, they are out of state, they don’t know how, they don’t know who to vote for; the list goes on.
We have to keep in mind that we all come from different familial and academic backgrounds, and study diverse educational fields. Not everyone is constantly exposed to the political information they need.
There is hope for our progress. There was an approximately thirty-five percent increase in Cornell student voter turnout between 2012 and 2016 for the presidential election. But the there is more progression in other elections. At an institution like Cornell, which cultivates the future leaders of America, the University should ensure that all of students questions are answered concerning voting as part of their academic guidelines, and that it is accessible for us to be able to go out and vote. We are going to be the ones inheriting the country.
When I go to vote for the midterm elections, I will go with the believe that my single decision will influence the well-being of thousands of underrepresented people nationally, and millions of underrepresented people globally. We can no longer blame the government for all of the problems we face, when our missing votes put politicians in positions of power. We must take the first step on this campus.
I implore you, go out and vote.
Aminah Taariq is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. I Spy runs every other Wednesday this semester. She can be reached at [email protected]