by Katie Stockdale
You. Must. Vote.
That’s the title of a YouTube video posted six years ago on my favorite YouTube channel, Vlogbrothers. It’s not the only video about voting on the channel and they all have the same message: vote. Before I was old enough to vote, it was easy to listen and agree with this message. Voting was a right, my civic duty.
But then the 2016 elections came, my first time voting, and the cycle could not have been more discouraging. Debates had nothing to do with policy and everything to do with flinging insults. I couldn’t step outside without hearing another rumor, another terrible story. Suddenly I didn’t know what to do. In my moments of insecurity, I went to Vlogbrothers and they had the same message for me: I must vote.
Spoiler alert, I voted. It wasn’t the best or the easiest ballot, but I made my voice heard. Everyone who said I had to vote was right, I had to vote. In this enormous country, in this large state, voting was the only way I could effect change.
Now, after the primaries and the start of another vitriolic election cycle, I know that many people are facing election day with doubts. In Florida, from senate to governor we have difficult choices. But the election is more than just difficult choices, it’s everything. It’ll affect the sheriff’s department, the schools, our courts and judges. The amendments on the ballot are our chance to decide what laws we live under.
College Republicans president Josh Cote, senior sports management major, believes that local elections decide more of people’s everyday lives than federal ones.
“If you take the time to research candidates and to figure out their positions, you’ll quickly come to know many local and state politicians and you will be a more educated voter,” Cote said.
Maybe you, like me, are struggling with how negative the election cycle is. Maybe you haven’t registered yet, or don’t want to vote if you have. But by not voting, it’s the rest of the country or the state that chooses how the government impacts your life.
“You can’t complain if you don’t vote,” said College Democrats vice president Kate Beeken, junior political science and advertising and public relations double major. “I think it’s really important to push the students in the fact that even if you’re unhappy with the politicians we have today and that’s why you’re discouraged from voting, then the only way to change that is to go out and get your voice heard yourself.”
Like Cote, Beeken believes if you research the candidates, you’ll find the ones that you identify with or who’s policies align the most with your beliefs, even if they don’t fall on party lines. If you know you’re not red or blue, don’t be discouraged. Vote anyways and make sure to get registered. The people registering you, whether they’re the College Democrats, Republicans, or a third party, don’t care about what political party you are. Both the College Democrats and Republicans believe that registering all voters, no matter political identity is important.
“In my home state of New Hampshire, it’s an open primary, giving the independents an actual voice,” Cote said. “Many do lean towards one side of the political spectrum over the other and giving them the opportunity to express themselves in the primary, should be something that Florida should look at.”
Already this semester the College Democrats and Republicans had worked together to register voters, both tabling in an event put on by Student Government. The third party Nextgen America, an environmental advocacy nonprofit and political action committee, has been working on campus as well to register voters. They’ve been around campus with clipboards getting people to both register and pledge to vote. It might be annoying to constantly be asked if you’ve registered to vote, but it’s also annoying to watch politicians in Florida or Washington DC push policies you don’t agree with. Voting won’t get every politician you don’t like out of government, but it has a better chance than doing nothing.
Even if you’re not from Florida you can still vote come November. Go online to vote.org or usa.gov to find out how to register in your state and then request an absentee ballot. You’ll get the ballot early and after you vote in the comfort of your own home, with the ability to research the candidates and amendments as you read about them, you’ll be able to make your votes and then mail it back. Even if you aren’t out of state, in Hillsborough county you can request to vote by mail, get the ballot early and either mail it back or drop it off at a polling location. In Florida, the deadline to register is Oct. 9 and if you’re out of state, you can find the deadline to register on the registration websites.
My mom is a teacher and I’m an environmentalist, so not only are two of the amendments on the ballot very important to me, but many of the people on the ballot, from school board members, to agricultural commissioners to the governor will affect the things I care about. On every ballot there is something that someone has an opinion on. This is your chance to defend those opinions and to help build the county, state and country you can be proud of living in.
The next time someone comes up to you with a clipboard and asks if you’ve registered to vote, pause. Unless you are very late to class, you can spare this person a moment of time for a conversation. If you haven’t registered, maybe now is the time. If you have, take this as a reminder to look up the ballot when you get back to your dorm or home. Do a little research and get prepared for November. When the polling time comes, don’t worry about other people’s views. Walk into that polling station or mail in your ballot and vote your truth.
-Restore the right to vote to felons
-Require a supermajority vote on college fees
-Voter approval of casino gambling
-Banning offshore oil and gas drilling and vaping in indoor workspaces
Struck down amendments, facing appeals
-Establish school board term limits
-Increase the age of retirement for judges to 75
-Prohibit betting on dog racing.
-Chief financial officer
-School board members
-County court judges
-Officers of soil and water conservation.
Katie Stockdale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org