I’ll never forget my first time voting as a student. It was in 2011 and I was voting in the local Ann Arbor elections. I was excited to finally have a say in electing leaders who would represent me and make decisions that would directly impact my life.

As a child, I would always accompany my mother to the polls and step inside the ballot box with her. Sometimes she would let me fill in the bubbles for her and I would get an “I voted” sticker to wear like a badge of honor. This time though, I was voting on my own issues, based on research that I had done. I was filling out the ballot based on my own personal views, and at the time, nothing seemed more exciting than voicing my own opinion. When I eventually fed my completed ballot into the machine, the sticker that I received finally resonated with me: I had voted.

I’ll never forget the importance of that election. While there were nothing “sexy” to vote for on that ballot, like the president, governor or members of Congress, each issue that I voted on had importance that could change my very own day-to-day life.

The upcoming election this Nov. 4 is equally, if not more, important than my first election in 2011, as well as each election since. While decisions made at the federal level might take months or years to affect us at the statewide or local level, choices made by our governor and state legislators have immediate and lasting impacts.

That’s why voting in local, gubernatorial and presidential elections is so important. It’s up to us to elect leaders who are going to do what’s best for our education system, our communities and us. And in statewide and local elections, every single vote counts.

If you have any questions about issues on the ballot, where your polling place is, how to submit an absentee ballot or something else entirely, you can visit the Michigan Election Coalition’s website at mielectioncoalition.org. MEC is a coalition of non-partisan, non-profit organizations working to improve citizen engagement in the democratic process, and their website is a good place to get voting questions answered.

The Michigan Election Coalition, a coalition of nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations working to increase citizen engagement with democracy, has created a new website that makes voting easier. It even has guidelines specifically for students. Visit the site at mielectioncoalition.org if you have any questions about the issues on the ballot, where your polling place is, how to submit an absentee ballot or something else entirely.

This November, whether it’s your first time or you’ve already got some experience under your belt, get out and exercise your most fundamental right to vote. It’s your duty to yourself, your family, your peers and your future.

The experiences we have in college will stick with us for our entire lives — make voting one of them.

Jesse Buchsbaum is LSA senior.

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