On August 6th, 1965, the United States Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, enforcing the 15th Amendment that had been ratified 95 years earlier. The right to vote is considered one of the most sacred parts of American democracy, yet it’s often undervalued and overlooked by Americans. This trend is especially common among younger voters, who often turnout to the polls at significantly lower rates than older voters. In times as unprecedented as this, it’s important that younger voters are making their voices heard in the most effective way possible, by voting.
There are several organizations both in Bozeman and on campus dedicated to registering members of the community to vote. One organization on campus that is helping lead this effort is Montana Public Interest Research Group (MontPIRG). Erin Robinson and Emma Kardokus are both interns for MontPIRG, and shared that their drive to register voters comes from the desire to help those around them and to ensure that people have the resources they need to register to vote.
Voting has perhaps never been more important, due to increased polarization and parity of social and economic statuses in America. Robinson argues that it’s important to vote so that your ideas are represented, stating “Voting is important because you are important, and the laws affect you.” This is especially true for younger voters. Kardokus points out that our representatives tend to be older, and that these representatives usually don’t care about the issues of younger Americans because they aren’t as prevalent to them. To combat this, she says “when people do not feel that they are cared about, they need to have an opportunity to put people in power who will represent them. That is what voting allows us to do.”
Despite this increased importance, many voters believe that their vote doesn’t matter, however voting is the most effective tool we have to enact real and tangible change in our country. Oftentimes it’s hard to change someone’s opinion when they're in this mindset, but Kardokus contests this idea by saying “if voting did not matter there would not be people in this country trying to suppress it.” Robinson follows this up by emphasizing how important each vote is in Montana, explaining “we have such a small population that we are somewhat overpowered in the grand scheme of things. Your vote as a Montanan means more than your vote as a New yorker or a Californian, that’s for sure!”
Voting can admittedly be scary for the first time. Robinson advises that, in order to combat this anxiety, it’s important to be well researched and if possible to ensure that you are not working on Election Day. Robinson also stresses the importance of hearing opinions of others, “You can start to see other perspectives better when you are forced to question your own… If you’re uncomfortable bringing it up with family, talk to friends. Talk to Teachers.”
Registering to vote has never been easier. In 2021, most states now offer many simple ways to register, including online forms that can be completed in under 20 minutes, so there really aren't many excuses to keep putting it off. Kardokus sums this up really well when she says, “Make a habit of voting and being informed!” So, if you aren’t already, register to vote and get involved with your community and the American process!
For more information about the election day, stay tuned for the Exponent’s election edition on Thursday, Oct. 21.