Elections. They are a transformation that only occur every few of years. As if by magic, tiny patriotic signs seemingly grow out of the ground, decorated with some all-too familiar names as well as many unknowns looking to represent their local constituents. 

Despite the election magic in the air, many college students might not feel the patriotic drive to vote. Political candidates are never perfect and recent presidential elections have left quite a few people feeling as though there isn’t truly a choice in the voting process. 

In polarizing times, it can be easy to give up on the process because your guy (or gal) didn’t get the big-ticket nomination. Whether you prefer the red or blue flavor of presidential candidate, it’s likely that neither have the issues of college students at the forefront of their minds.

Abstaining from the vote, however, is not an option. Amongst the messy ideas that formed this country centuries ago, there lies the ideology that a citizen of the United States has a voice to determine who leads their nation, and has a responsibility to use that voice. 

The Power of Small Government

Small government has an incredible impact on the community. Every town in the U.S. has their version of Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson working together to create change. While “Parks and Rec” satirizes small governments, the results they create for the citizens of Pawnee serves as a reminder of the positive influence of city governments.

Because of their localized power, government elections at the city, county and state levels have a greater direct impact on the lives of college students and citizens. 

Students registered to vote in Spokane are some of the most important on-campus voters. Even if you aren’t eligible to vote in Spokane, voting from college keeps students engaged with their communities despite the distance from home. 

By maintaining a political voice in their hometown, students can take lessons learned at Gonzaga and translate them to their own communities to influence positive change in the world.

The Threat to Voting Rights

On a more serious note, the doubt and controversy in recent months over absentee ballots is a direct threat to the enfranchisement of college voters, as well as voters as a whole. Also known as mail-in ballots, absentee ballots are a vital method to ensure citizens’ voices are heard.

For many college students, absentee ballots are the only way to vote in this election. As a resident of California, I simply do not have the capabilities to vote in-person in my home state. 

There are hundreds of thousands of other college students in similar situations where they need an absentee ballot to participate in their democracy. Threatening the means of counting our vote threatens the rights of college students as citizens of the U.S.

To protect our rights, GU students should make every effort to vote in this election. Students who rely on the absentee system to make their voice heard should not stand quietly as our liberties are encroached upon. 

Our country is unique in that we have had the capability of hosting non-violent regular elections, something we often forget is an anomaly in the world around us, not the rule. Plenty of nations teeter on the edge of democracy without the guarantee of local elections on a regular basis. 

A Fight for Your Voice

The reality is that the internet has divided the consciousness of U.S. citizens to an extreme. Our country hasn’t been split on a level like this since before the Civil War.

To refuse to vote at such a critical point in our nation’s history is walking away from the issue. 

If GU students abstain from voting this semester, they should lose the right to criticize our leaders. To idly critique the government for their failings without participating in the process to improve the system is hypocritical and backwards.

The U.S. is not perfect, in fact we are far from it. But you right now in college have the chance to improve how we the people impact our communities. This election season, exercise your civic duty as a U.S. citizen to vote and ensure a better tomorrow for all people.

Matthew Dobner is a staff writer.

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(1) comment

Bill Keshlear

Well said, Mr. Dobner. While most of the attention focuses on national races, city and county races are where civic engagement can make a big and visible impact. What needs fixing in Spokane. Attend a planning and zoning meeting. Join any number of citizen advisory boards. Yes, including the board that guides policy and development of city parks. There's even a vacancy on the Spokane board.


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