It’s often easier to understand the breadth of your privileges when it seems like they’re in jeopardy. So imagine for a second that you aren’t registered to vote. Sure, at this exact minute, it may not seem like this matters that much — it’s not going to change what your Psych 111 reading is or how many words you have left in that essay. And maybe you, as one single individual, won’t sway Tuesday’s results.
But that view is narrow and misguided. Everyone has an issue, candidate or a general question, and now there is a chance to use the voting booth as a forum to express your opinion. On Nov. 4, we have the chance to directly engage in the democratic process, to immediately make it known how we feel about our government and to take ownership over our political atmosphere. Alexander Hamilton once said that “the first duty of society is justice” — this is the time to take control of our communities and shape them into what we want to see.
That message should especially resonate here at the University. This place has a long-standing tradition of civic engagement. In 1960, Students for a Democratic Society, the face of the New Left, held its first meeting in Ann Arbor. Comprise partly of University of Michigan students, the group spearheaded a student movement for the rest of the United States. It is impossible to deny that we can have a direct effect on the course of history if we want. Now is the time to live up to our activist reputation — no matter which box you check on that ballot, your decision will impact the nation.
There is a growing sense on campus of this importance. What has been so inspirational about this election season is not simply the excitement we’ve witnessed among our generation, but also the vast amount of knowledge we all share when it comes to every single aspect of our nation’s status. Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican or perhaps taking the road less traveled, the moment anyone whispers “Obama,” “McCain” or anything even marginally related to politics, all other conversation lulls, eyes widen and ears perk up.
This is our election, and we must take responsibility for a large portion of the excitement. Your point of view is legitimate and important, and by virtue of the grace that we happen to live in a government founded upon a document that acknowledges just that, there is a blatant and easy opportunity to have your voice heard. Casting a ballot is a right, a privilege and a civic duty that needs to exercised, regardless of where you may fall in the political spectrum.
Let’s be honest, the lines may be long, the poll workers may be grouchy and it may just seem more appealing to run off to class. But for your sake get up tomorrow, bring your M-Card and voter registration card to the polls, and let the rest of the nation know what you believe. If you don’t have a registration card, bring another proof of residency, like a letter from the University with your current address on it.
Know your rights and use them, understand your privileges and own them — this is our moment and our chance, so go vote tomorrow.
Rebecca Egler is an LSA sophomore, and Hannah Lieberman is an LSA junior. They are co-chairs of the Michigan Student Assembly’s Voice Your Vote Commission