Change begins with the ballot

On Nov. 8, most Swatties will vote for president for the first time. We will walk to the polls without being harassed, cast our ballots without waiting for hours, and return to the comfort of our dorms feeling satisfied we did our part to elect our next president.

The voting experience we have at Swarthmore is a privilege that does not mirror the experience of every American. On Election Day, millions of people will still face significant barriers that restrict them from letting their voices be heard. Sadly, many Americans will travel home after being met with prohibitive identification requirements or closed polling sites. Even more will not make it to the polls at all, unable to afford the transportation or the time off work. The strategic disenfranchisement of poor and minority voters is still a tactic used by some to win elections.

Growing up in Oregon, voting was as simple as checking a box and putting one’s ballot in the mail. I’d watch my parents vote from our couch while watching the Portland Trail Blazers on TV. Although I won’t be able to do it from McCabe, I’m casting my ballot this November. I am voting because I care about what happens in this country, and I refuse to let apathy dictate who sits in the Oval Office for the next four years—and who sits on the Supreme Court for the next thirty.

The importance of casting a vote is why I became a member of  Swatties for Hillary, the student group at Swarthmore working with Hillary for Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Together Campaign. It is why Swatties for Hillary members have spent weeks in Sharples asking anyone and everyone if they are registered to vote.

We won’t be there for very much longer: the last day to register is Oct. 11. The good news is that it’s never been easier to register. If you haven’t registered yet, you don’t even have to get up and go to Sharples—stop right now, and go to http://iwillvote.com. It’ll take you less time than you’ve already spent reading this article.

For a campus that prides itself on political engagement, we aren’t doing very well. Only 70 percent of eligible voters at Swarthmore were registered in 2012, and only 48 percent turned out to vote. Most Swatties justify this inaction with dissatisfaction with our candidates or cynicism about whether our votes matter.  We are quick to speak out, demonstrate, and protest. We are slower to vote. What we often fail to see is that voting is not only the most immediate way to make our voices heard; voting is a privilege too often denied to other Americans.

Secretary Clinton is the most qualified candidate that has ever run for president. She is a lawyer, children’s advocate, former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State; her opponent is a misogynistic, xenophobic bigot who plays on our worst fears and pits Americans against one another on a daily basis. Attending Clinton’s event in Haverford on Tuesday only confirmed what I already believed: there is nobody better suited to run this country.

I intend to make my voice heard. This may be the most important election of our lifetimes, and Swatties cannot become complacent. If you’re like me and are angry with the state of our politics and want change, vote. If you care about climate change, vote. If you care about Wall Street reform, vote. I assure you that all these issues and much, much more are on the ballot this November. Register to vote today, and make your voice heard.

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