By JOSEPH MARTIN
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Midterm elections are a little more than a month away, and all of the elected offices are of importance. However, it seems there’s a movement afoot to keep ballots from being cast, which always benefits the side of our society who isn’t the majority. That side of our society happens to be who’s running things, and one shouldn’t expect them to understand, nor really care about the needs and best interests of the people as a whole.
This is done through measures which discourage people, and even prevent people, from voting. These are measures like cutting down times for early voting, unjustifiably removing voters’ names from the rolls, cutting down times at which polls are open, and efforts to discourage voters from casting absentee ballots. The last one is a great way to discourage young voters from casting ballots.
Young people don’t really need a lot of discouragement from voting as it is. Millennial voters still maintain the lowest turnout rates of any of the age groups. That’s a sad fact.
Millennials are affected by decisions made by the older generations, who are the ones who typically run for and get elected to office. If they don’t want legislation passed or policies enacted that negatively affects them, then they need to turn out at the polls to try to keep those who would enact such things from getting elected. Based on the turnout results from the last national election, it appears as though this generation largely sat on its hands last election day and then shrugged shoulders as if it was powerless to do anything about it.
The other saddening fact about this, is civic engagement and responsibility is a habit that should be started before someone reaches the age of 18. From the president, to the town council representative, to the tribal council representative to school board members, every elected position makes decisions and takes actions that has an impact on every single person in some way. The beauty of democracy is that when an elected official is disappointing, or when a candidate is impressive with great ideas, the voters can make a change that should benefit all of us.
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, based at Tufts University, says it’s important for young people to vote for the following reasons:
- Voting is habit-forming;
- Young people are a major part of the electorate, and their voices matter;
- Young people’s participation can influence election results;
- Involving young people in information and discussion can impact a young person’s household, increasing the likelihood that others in the household will vote.
Reports have surfaced that many college students aren’t sending in absentee ballots because they don’t know where to get a stamp. It’s at the nearest post office. Many grocery stores sell stamps at the register. Most Walmarts will also sell stamps at the register. In fact, you can buy and print postage online at: https://www.stamps.com/landing/?source=si10977523&subsource=a1fecf80-a25a-0136-0069-562c2ea3bf50. In fact, the U.S. Post Office will send ballots with insufficient postage. They’ll even send ballots with no postage. Local election boards pick up the tab. Now there is no excuse.
Everyone eligible to vote must do so. If nothing else, look at what two tribal members running for office had to say on the importance of voting. Incumbent North Carolina Superior Court Judge Candidate Brad Letts said, “It’s important for enrolled members to be involved and engaged, because they impact their lives on a daily basis.” Swain County Chairman of Commissioners Candidate Ben Bushyhead made a point that should be in giant bold letters. “Politicians pay attention if you have a large number of voters.” Young voters, print that last sentence out and highlight it.
Too many 18-year-olds have risked and given their lives for the rights of every one of us to have a say in our democratic process. In 1971, as the Vietnam War was killing 18-year-olds left and right, the legal voting age was lowered to 18 in the U.S. Constitution. Whatever hurdles are put before voters, they can be overcome, and a postage stamp isn’t even one of those hurdles. Don’t stay at home, or your dorm and not request a ballot. Don’t just declare yourselves powerless. We all have the power and need to use it. The stakes are too high. Vote. Vote. Vote.