By Mikayla Silcox
Elm Staff Writer
Becoming an adult in America means more than freedom from strict parents. At age 18, you are given the alarmingly overlooked privilege to vote and to redirect local, state, and federal governing to align with your ideals.
Unfortunately, this right is wrongly overlooked, and young people have taken advantage of their position by either not registering to vote or not actively voting for issues they care about.
As the time to vote approaches, not enough students are searching for information on candidates and the potential for change.
Through the Voting and Civic Engagement Council, Washington College is working on becoming a campus full of educated voters. The Council held an event on Wednesday, Oct. 26 where Maryland representatives answered student questions.
“We usually forget about our state legislatures, governors, district attorneys, and local government. They’re the ones making the decisions that have the most direct impact on us, but a lot of people don’t even know who their local leaders are,” senior Dylan Snow said.
Snow has realized how apathetic students are about voting from his time working with leader of Civic Engagement Pat Nugent on the Council. Even around election time there has been a lack of urgency for students to understand the change they are able to make.
Whether it be large scale issues like abortion or smaller yet important concerns like waterways and road work, many new voters underestimate the power of their vote, and in turn, terminate their positive political involvement.
“Lack of knowledge could prohibit students [as well as] social status. What I mean by social status is, for instance, I am unable to vote because I am not a United States citizen,” senior Shannon Salandy said.
Even though she is unable to vote within her currently residing community, Salandy works to encourage civic engagement.
Despite what the Constitution implies, voting is not a right. Voting is a conditional privilege as an American, and actively ignoring your ability to choose representatives to fight for your beliefs and values is a privilege in of itself.
WC is actively working to encourage voting and civic discussions amongst students.
“Henry David Thoreau famously wrote, ‘Cast your whole vote, not a piece of paper merely, but your whole influence.’ So, we’re hoping that these events, voter drives, and information workshops are the beginning of a process that will draw students closer to local governance so that they may not only cast their whole influence,” Nugent said.
Nugent recognizes the unique position students have in Kent County, where 30 votes can turn over the outcome of an election.
While some students may recognize that their vote will have more of an impact on their hometown elections, there is still much to learn from the local politics around WC.
Ten candidates volunteered their time to connect with WC students in a candidate forum on Oct. 26. While the student turnout was underwhelming, the willingness of the candidates to come and speak on issues with local students shows the direct impact and concern local politics can play on citizens.
“In my county with more than a million people, the primary for county executive came down to just 32 votes. If 32 more people had voted, my county could see very different policies and changes,” Snow said.
Local politics can serve as encouragement and evidence to those who do not believe their voice matters.
On any scale, local or federal, young people have the power to promote a progressive trajectory of policy.
“I think there is a big issue with young people not voting because we are the future, and we have innovative and more flexible ideas about how the world can be more progressive,” Salandy said.
Young people, like college students, more frequently prioritize issues like LGBTQ+ rights, improved immigration treatment, and climate change, according to Snow. If progressive voices used their privilege and worked together by taking action and voting, these younger generational concerns could be addressed by representatives.
As midterm elections come up, voting becomes a serious topic. The Council, alongside Kent Country politicians, are working to encourage educated voting. It is up to students to turn the tide and work to increase voter turnout. Students’ votes matter, and it would be a shame to allow a continued lack of young representation.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo Caption: With the upcoming election, it is important now more than ever for students to learn about their state and local representatives and cast their votes.