It’s hard to believe that it has already been four years since the last campaign. Four years ago, most of us couldn’t even vote yet. But this year, it seemed that a large portion of the University of Massachusetts community hit the polls for our first say in a presidential election.
In September, I was wondering whether to get an absentee ballot or if I should just register to vote in Amherst and wondered how both processes work. Since I’m from Massachusetts, either would be suitable to me. Students helping out with the voting process at UMass made it very easy to register to vote in town because I think we can all agree that everywhere you walked, you were bound to be asked “Are you registered to vote?” and handed a clip board.
In downtown Amherst, there were adults assisting students in registering, as well. I’m happy that while they help students register, I didn’t find that they voiced their own opinions or tried to sway you in a certain direction. This non-biased process kept peace on our campus that is full of different views. Once that operation was over, the next step was to actually get to the poll.
Under the Dean of Students Office Voter Register Information, it states that UMass “encourages all eligible voters to do their civic duty and vote during elections.” In order to do so, they provided us with shuttles to voting booths in town, which I thought was fantastic. Basically, everything was laid out on a silver platter, which made it easy for everyone, politically savvy or not, to have their opinion heard, or to even just cast a vote. It’s too easy to not do it.
During and after the presidential debates, you may have seen and heard all the hype on Twitter, Facebook and in everyday conversation about what happened. There were viewings in the dining halls and dorms so that students could watch. This shows the commitment and political involvement of students and the leaders on campus who took the initiative to make sure students watched the debates. The viewing of the debates was highly advised by some of my professors as well.
It is likely that you got an email or Facebook invite for an Election Results Viewing Party, hosted by the Political Science and Legal Studies Departments on Tuesday. As ballots are counted, it’s is pretty fun to watch with friends and form new friendships from this shared experience. Many dorms also had this on television sets in the lounges and I’m willing to bet that people were glued to the screens.
The election has also been brought up in some of my classes. One of my professors just came out and said, “I’m voting for Obama,” and continued on with his rant without a care about what the rest of the class thought. I respected that he wasn’t afraid to say who he was voting for, but I know that many people are hesitant to tell people their opinion because they don’t want to start an argument, or just feel that it is a personal subject. We all know how political conversations have the potential to end negatively, especially if the person doesn’t have a good argument to back up their thoughts. Even if you don’t have a strong opinion, I think it is important to cast a vote and voice your opinion. People in the past fought hard for this right and some even lost their lives.
Go around campus and ask your friends who ran for president. I guarantee you’ll find at least one person who has no clue about the candidates. Besides the politically active students, there are a lot of clueless students who either choose not to associate themselves with politics or just don’t care enough to listen and find out about them.
Generally, I find that a lot of students know who they are going to vote for, but don’t know why. Maybe it’s because they vote for whom their parents vote for, or because they think the country is doing fine as it is, so might as well keep the same president, or alternatively they just want change. It’s important to be educated about the views of who you are voting for, so you aren’t blind-sighted. There are many online sites with quizzes that may give you an indication of what percentage of Republican, Democrat or Independent values you align with. There are also sites with opposing views of the Mitt Romney and Barack Obama campaigns just to inform individuals about what is going on.
Other large universities on the East Coast, such as the University of Connecticut, seem to have similar views on student voting. UConn had a large section on its website, under Undergrad Student Government, about Election Day, displaying how to register and how to vote, similar to what happened at UMass.
Farther west, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville had information about how to vote, register and everything else along those lines. Schools around the United States encouraged voting, showing how important it is to have an opinion. University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman encouraged students to vote and educate themselves politically. Just like here at UMass, the Eastern Michigan University provided shuttles to take students to vote and hosted an election viewing night. It seems that many universities across the country were as determined to churn out voters as UMass was on Tuesday.
Tuesday night showed us how important it is for college students to vote. We are the future. It’s true and four years from now, our generation will have a large impact on the country as we go out into the real world. It is necessary that we are informed about the politics behind our country in order to make educated decisions. Starting to be involved as a young adult is a good way to build up for such a future.
Now that I am of voting age and since witnessing these occurrences Tuesday, I have noticed how much goes into a vote, from getting to the poll, to keeping oneself abreast of politics. My vote counts and I’m glad that I contributed to the turnout.
Karen Podorefsky is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.