Cartoon 9/24

Racial injustice, natural disasters worsened by climate change, growing income inequality and a pandemic. That’s a highlight of the terrible things happening in the U.S. in 2020, a comprehensive list would be seemingly endless.

Nov. 3, however, provides a bright spot, an opportunity for Americans to attempt to make a change. Election Day won’t fix 2020, but it can ensure that future years will be better than this colossal screw up of a 12-month cycle.

It’s sad that in America people have to be reminded to vote. A fundamental right that is the bedrock of democracy has to be pushed on the general public the same way as a deal at McDonald’s. Americans, especially young people, should be eager to vote. The possibility of impacting yours and other lives for the better is something that should excite us.

In 2016, 61.4% of eligible voters cast ballots in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau. That’s a respectable completion percentage for a high school quarterback, but not for democratic participation.

It gets even worse when young people are singled out. The voting rate for 18- to 29-year-olds doesn’t even eclipse the 50% mark; it’s 46.1%. Older people are outpacing them by a long shot with 70.9% turnout in 2016.That’s the turnout in presidential election years. It tends to be much lower during midterms even though they are often no less important.

Young people are allowing those who haven’t been in their shoes for decades make decisions that will impact them much more than older generations who choose for them. Climate change, social security and education funding are all major issues that older generations won’t feel the repercussions of their choices. Apathy is most disastrous for young voters.

The 2020 election is often simplified to the choice between former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and President Donald Trump, but it’s so much more than that. Everyone in the House of Representatives is up for reelection and there are 35 U.S. Senate seats up for grabs. All of these races have one thing in common: they are sexier than state and local elections. These races will grab more headlines, be brought up in more conversations and therefore garner more attention.

The fact is that state and local elections have more immediate effect on people’s lives than national elections. How schools are funded, how the coronavirus is handled, what roads are repaired, where the sales taxes go and who the chief law officer of the county is — the Nodaway County Sheriff is up for reelection — these are all issues that are handled by state and local governments and are greatly impacted by voter participation. Sure there aren’t million-dollar TV ads that interrupt Chiefs games, debates hosted on national TV or near as many gaudy merchandise covered in tacky slogans, but those races are just as important if not more so than national elections. 

For these state and local elections, college students, register where you spend most of your time and money, which is probably Maryville. You may not ever live in your hometown full-time again, meaning that you won’t be affected near as much by local politics there as you will be here. It’s also more convenient because you don’t have to drive home in the middle of the week to vote. It’s become clear that Trump thinks the 0.0025% voter fraud rate is big enough to destroy the Postal Service, so if you want to ensure your voice, vote in person. 

And for the love of all that is good know what is going on. Look at candidates and evaluate what they plan to do if elected or reelected. Voting takes work and if you aren’t willing to put in some effort maybe stay home instead. It takes more than the viewing of one attack ad or one yard sign to make an informed decision on who to vote for. Politics can be complicated, and it’s easy to fall down a rabbit-hole, but please look into who you vote for. 

The reelection rate of Congress hovers between 80% and 90% depending on the year, according to Open Secrets. However, the approval rating for Congress was 21% in August 2020, according to a Gallup poll. Spoiler alert: someone has to be the problem. So, look into who you want to elect and see how they plan to or have voted, because if everyone is unhappy, then something needs to change.

In a year where everything seems to be bleak, the November election provides Americans with an opportunity to make the future a little brighter. Take it and vote.

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