Last Tuesday, when Americans headed to the polls, one demographic was visibly absent. Only about 20 percent of people under the age of 30 voted in the Nov. 2 midterm election, according to a Nov. 4 Daily article. While midterm elections usually post lower turnout than presidential elections, these numbers are distressingly low, especially considering the governmental change that resulted from this election and the impact that change will have on students. With important issues and positions on the ballot, it’s imperative that students show up at the polls for each and every election.
In Ann Arbor, only about 21 percent of voters in areas that house large numbers of students turned out for Tuesday’s election, according to the Daily article. In 2008, 55 percent of people under the age of 30 voted nationwide. Student-filled districts in Ann Arbor posted a slightly lower rate of 45 percent. The 2006 midterm election saw a 23-percent turnout among young people nationwide — three percent higher than national turnout this year.
Democracy only works when citizens voice their opinions and concerns by voting. Votes hold elected officials accountable for their actions: When they fail to accurately represent their constituents, voters can remove them from office. But if students choose not to cast a ballot, elected officials have no incentive to represent their interests. And if only 20 percent of young people vote in an election, government officials remain uninterested in pushing for causes like increased funding for higher education.
This election in particular was a big opportunity for students to make their voices heard, even though it didn’t focus on an individual quite as charismatic as President Barack Obama. Michigan elected a new governor and Republicans took the U.S. House of Representatives and both houses of the Michigan legislature. The two incumbent University regents up for re-election — both of whom have done little in their terms to stop tuition increases — remain in office. Without student votes to hold these officials accountable for their decisions, they will continue to ignore what students need and want.
All elections are important. Issues addressed at all levels of government will always affect students’ lives. From the governor’s stance on the Michigan Promise Scholarship and to Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje’s plans for the proposed Fuller Road Transportation Center, students feel the impact of governmental decisions in their everyday lives. And the onus is on students to make sure their opinion is being heard.
There are a lot of excuses for why students don’t vote — they don’t know about the issues, don’t know where to vote or haven’t bothered to register, don’t have the time to vote between classes, etc. But students have to overcome apathy to affect change. Regardless of the hassle of going to the polls or sending in an absentee ballot, students need to take the time to educate themselves about candidates and issues and vote.
Voting isn’t just a right: it’s also a responsibility. And until students step up, their interests won’t be adequately represented.