We are Michigan Daily alumni from the mid-1960s and 1970s. We were writers, editors, photographers and members of the business staff. We loved every minute of our time at 420 Maynard Street and at the University of Michigan. Most of us are now in our 60s and 70s, and we’re happy to say we still enjoy each others’ company.
We’re not writing now just to celebrate The Daily and the University, however. Rather, we want to urge all U-M students to register for, and vote in, the Nov. 3 election, and to work actively to protect three endangered features of the electoral process: voter registration rolls, vote-by-mail or early voting and the vote count.
During the bitterly contested election of 1968, before the adoption of the 26th Amendment allowing 18-year-olds to vote, many of us were not old enough to go to the polls. The outcome, arriving at the height of the Vietnam War, had a monumental impact on our lives. The result might have been different had we been able to cast ballots.
In contrast, Daily alums from the 1970s saw how the 26th Amendment made a difference in 1972; for example, in Ann Arbor, two U-M students were elected to the city council, and a 29-year-old Delaware County Council member — Joe Biden — defeated a long-entrenched incumbent in an approximate 3,000-vote squeaker to win a seat in the U.S. Senate.
The good news is that most students at the University are eligible to vote this year. The bad news is that although turnout among young people and college students has increased slightly in recent years, it still lags well behind voter participation among older Americans.
And this year, just voting won’t be enough. President Donald Trump and his enablers have attempted numerous — and frequently successful — purges of the voter registration rolls. It is estimated that as many as 16.5 million Americans have been disenfranchised this year. Many have re-registered, but many others may not be able to do so. The election could ultimately be decided by success in overcoming these purges.
Particularly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, vote-by-mail should be a safe and simple way to vote. It’s been used very successfully in over a dozen states. In 2020, more states — including Michigan — will introduce or greatly expand vote-by-mail. Options to vote early have also been expanded. These will be successful only with strong and sustained election protection activism, particularly on the part of young people like you.
Finally, nearly all county election boards now have scanners that can create digital images of paper ballots while preserving them for recounts. It’s a great advance, but many partisans resist using them. It’s up to citizens like us to safeguard the vote count. For more information on general election protection issues, check this website.
In 2016, Donald Trump won Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes. A recount in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan might well have reversed that outcome, and might have put a different candidate in the White House.
We urge you now to register and vote: to get your relatives, friends and neighbors to register and vote, to protect vote-by-mail, early voting and the vote count and more. If you have’’t registered to vote, the Internet can get you to the right place: check out this website and the respective pages for individual states. If you need more incentive to get involved, look at what happened after the 1968 election. Then remember what’s been happening here for the past four years.
We hope that fifty years from now, you will look back on this moment and remember how you changed history. Go Blue! Vote Blue!
The authors of this op-ed are all alumni of the University of Michigan and The Michigan Daily, including Sara Fitzgerald, Harvey Wasserman and Mark Killingsworth, among others. The entire list of signatures can be found here and authors can be reached collectively at firstname.lastname@example.org.