Our generation has much to care about. Climate change, rising tuition costs, the protection of our rights and those of others and the kind of economy we will face upon graduation are just a few issues that have been handed down to us by older generations who now face different — yet equally important — political problems of their own. Millennials make up 25 percent of the voting population. And yet, our voices are strangely absent from the policy-making table. It’s true the Millennial generation is perhaps the most disillusioned with our government than any other demographic, but if we want to create actual change and address the problems important to us, the solution is not to protest by abstaining, but rather the opposite — it’s as simple as casting a ballot this November.

Voting is important. It is a privilege to live in a country where certain rights are held inalienable; where each citizen has a legitimate voice in how things affect them and how their interests are represented in all levels of government. Additionally, a nation of voters fosters a nation of politically informed citizens, which encourages the democratic process even more.

The problem is that Millennials aren’t even engaging in this process. A national poll conducted by Harvard’s Institute of Politics in early 2014 revealed that only 23 percent of adults aged 18 to 24 plan to vote in the 2014 midterm elections. That’s only just more than 8 percent of the population — a far cry from the 25 percent-strong we could be. According to Trey Grayson, former director of the Harvard Institute of Politics, “The Institute’s spring poll shows 18 to 29 year olds’ trust in public institutions at a five-year low — and their cynicism toward the political process has never been higher.”

Why are Millennials so cynical? It is a commonly held belief that those who have the most say in policy-making are “old, rich, white people.” However, this is not a reflection of a broken system, but one that is actually working exactly the way it is supposed to. According to exit polls conducted by the Roper Center Public Opinion Archives, the highest percentage of voters in the 2008 Presidential election were white (74 percent), aged 45 and over (53 percent) and listing an income $100,000 and above (26 percent). It’s no wonder, then, that decisions being made in Washington reflect the interests of this demographic at the expense of others — most people voting are old, rich, white people.

The easiest and perhaps most meaningful way to fight for generational equity — having our voices equally represented with the other demographics at the policy-making table — is by exercising our civil rights and voting. This November, all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives as well as 36 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate will be contested — and local races are taking place at all levels across the country.

Don’t be dissuaded by the fact that only small elections will be taking place — though national elections are flashy and all-consuming, the local ones are where the most meaningful change can really be made. Most of the policy made in Washington may take years to come to fruition and even longer before you personally see its effects — but local decisions have an enormous and immediate impact on issues and services such as schools, transit, tax revenue, police, etc.

Tuesday is National Voter Registration Day. Groups of passionate students will be set up all day in Mason Hall and on the Diag, helping others take the two minutes needed to register. Michigan students can choose to vote here, or as an absentee voter of their home state.

We can fix the problems we perceive in American politics — but not if we refuse to engage in the process ourselves. With a problem like generational inequity, we need more than 6 percent to make a real difference by electing officials sympathetic to our problems and by voting on issues that will specifically affect us as a generation. Even if 25 percent is not enough, simply having more Americans fully engaged in the process helps America become more democratic. So embrace your role as an informed, politically engaged citizen of the United States and take a few minutes to register to vote on Tuesday — I promise only good things can happen.

Katherine Pak is an LSA sophomore and the Vice President of Communications for Common Sense Action.

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