When asked who is the voice of the United States of America, what comes to mind? When I reflect on this question, I consider a political leader, current or prior, to be that voice because of their status and ability to enact laws that affect the constituents of America; it is almost like our freedoms are being taken from us, in certain cases. However, this should not be the case. The voice of our country, the power that is held, is us.
Often, the capacity and potential that we have is undermined. Usually, the great power that we can have is not voiced . This authority stems from voting; further, voting in local or national elections can give us, as a whole, the power.
The right to vote wasn’t always given. In the late 1780s, voting was enacted; however, the criteria to vote was strict, only applying to white males who owned property. In 1870, the 15th Amendment gave African Americans the right to vote. Then, in 1920 when the 19th Amendment was passed, women were given the right to vote. Later in the early 1970s, the 26th Amendment altered the legal voting age, changing it to 18 years old as lawmakers understood the need for young adults to vote, as they represent society differently and hold diverse ideas compared to older adults. Seeing that a lengthy, treacherous path was taken by society to permit all to vote, it is a significant privilege we have that is often taken for granted.
According to a study from Tufts University, 48.3% of college students voted in the 2016 presidential election, a 3.2% increase compared to the 2012 election. However, 68.5% of college students were registered and eligible to vote during the 2016 election, meaning 20.2% of college students who did not vote. That 20.2% of students disregarded their power, their rights, and their voice. That 20.2% of students could have changed the outcome of the election tremendously. In the status quo, students are the most diverse population, and diversity is proven to ensure that America represents all. Our country is composed of many different races, ethnicities, religions, gender identities and ideologies, so when people who are different begin to vote, they affect the conclusion of the election, dramatically.
For example, a Hispanic voter, who is most passionate about America’s relationship with South America, would vote for the candidate that best supports their argument. This alters the outcome of the election. Students are typically more passionate about certain issues our country faces, compared to older adults including gun reform, education reform, climate change and women’s rights.
In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas tragedy, the issue of gun reform arose and many — especially students — identified the need for change in society. Because students are the ones who deal most with the education system, many hold strong opinions on this and have new ideas to improve America’s education system.
After the Supreme Court cases that involved women’s rights, many found this issue to be prevalent, which has led in the creation of many movements, by America’s youth, promoting humanism. Seeing that studies have depicted the flaws in the environment globally, the young have taken this issue into their own hands by advocating for environmental change.
There is no doubt that the current young voter population is driven and motivated by current events; it is clear that students’ voices matter. For this reason, it is crucial that we, students, do not allow our voices to be obstructed– register to vote, to ensure that you have a voice.
To do this, visit https://registertovoteflorida.gov/home or find your local elections office today.
Photo: J. Simcoe