Just Like Your Education, Make Voting a Lifelong Pursuit
When it comes to exercising our constitutional right to vote, as Americans, we don’t do so well. In fact, you could say we are failing. According to the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world, just shy of 56% of the U.S. voting-age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election. This figure puts us in the bottom 20% of other democratic nations, behind such countries as Belgium (87%), South Korea (77%) and Hungary (72%), including our neighbors to the north and south, Canada (62%) and Mexico (66%).
Given all that is at stake, it is disheartening that slightly more than half of the nation’s eligible voters actually vote for the next “leader of the free world.” But it’s even more of a travesty when you consider the great lengths that so many individuals throughout history have gone to in order to gain the right to vote. And lest we think that issues surrounding the right to vote are relegated to America’s past, voter disenfranchisement, suppression and intimidation continue to plague our society. Ultimately, the only way to protect the right to vote is to vote.
But there is hope. In its analysis of voting data from the 2018 midterm elections, the center found that voter turnout reached its highest point in nearly 40 years, with Generation Z, Millennials and Generation X outvoting Baby Boomers and older generations. Additionally, all major racial and ethnic groups also experienced historic jumps in voter turnout.
In support of this recent upward trend in voter turnout, and in partnership with the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge and its ALL IN To Vote project, colleges and universities throughout the U.S. are taking a lead role in voter registration and civic engagement initiatives. Since joining The Democracy Commitment in 2011, CCAC has become increasingly committed to reducing apathy, increasing community engagement and student registration rates, and graduating civic-minded individuals prepared to solve the community’s, the nation’s and the world’s most pressing challenges related to enhancing democracy and social justice. As CCAC’s president, I am proud to be a signatory of the Presidents’ Commitment to full student voter participation in Election 2020 and beyond.
In the weeks and days before the November 3rd election, I encourage you to educate yourself about the candidates and their positions on the issues that matter most to you. To help you sort out the facts from the fiction and learn what you need to know about voting in the upcoming election, both the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh Voter Resources pages and the college’s Election 2020: Vote! libguide provide comprehensive information and are excellent sources for all election-related matters.
For those who may be interested in learning more, CCAC offers a wealth of courses designed to increase your knowledge of the U.S. political system and how it works, including POL101 Introduction to Political Science, POL103 American Government, POL115 American Constitution, and POL204 Comparative Politics. Taught by experts in the field, these are excellent, thought-provoking classes that may have you considering a career in government or the law.
There is a lot at stake in this year’s election, and it is my sincere hope that you will join the hundreds of thousands of students throughout Pennsylvania and across the country who will be making their voice heard on Tuesday, November 3. Because no matter what your political leanings may be, if you want to effect positive change for yourself, your family and your country, you first need to vote!
Dr. Quintin Bullock