Early voting provides meaningful outlet for civic expression

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Tuesday, Nov. 3, you will be able to cast your vote for the next President of the United States, and to the students who think their vote doesn’t matter, you could not be further from the truth.

Whoever you choose for president will be directly involved in policy decisions having to do with the pandemic we are currently living through. You have to select someone who will be able to put the American public first. This election is a crucial one, no matter what political stance you hold.

According to PBS, the 2016 voter turnout rate rose to 58 percent, narrowly beating the 2012 record. Unfortunately, only 13 percent of these voters were under the age of 30. I know we, as students at the College of William and Mary who are within that age range, can do better than this.

I know it’s difficult to imagine going to the polls during a pandemic, but it is still extremely vital that we do. Fortunately, early voting keeps us from having to leave the safety of our home, campus or room. It is still entirely possible to go to in-person polling stations as long as you wear a mask and take the proper safety precautions.

Early voting in Virginia started Sept. 18. Due to COVID-19, voters no longer need an excuse to request a vote-by-mail ballot. Instead, one visit to the Virginia Department of Elections’ website can get you registered quickly and easily. Even if you do not currently live on campus, or even in Virginia, you can still request an absentee ballot. USAGov offers extensive information on how to find the voting laws of your state. In previous elections, a vote-by-mail ballot was only allowed in certain circumstances; however, many states are temporarily suspending this.

For the 2020 presidential election, voters will choose between incumbent President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. During the 2016 presidential election, Trump beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by 77 electoral votes. However, to much controversy, Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.9 million ballots, illustrating the importance of voting as Electoral College and popular vote results diverge.

This is my first time voting in a general election, and I could not be more excited. I get to exercise my right to vote, which is still something citizens in other countries don’t have, even though it is considered a universal human right.

“This is my first time voting in a general election, and I could not be more excited.”

It’s even more important considering it’s only been 100 years since the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote. Even more disheartening is that it’s been 55 years since the Voting Rights Act was passed. However, it is amendments and acts like that that remind us how important it is to do your civic duty. Our forefathers fought for these rights, and it’s up to us to not let that go to waste.

This past year has been a time of political turmoil and protest, which shows that it’s time for American citizens to use their voice in government and vote for people who uphold our beliefs and values. So, next time you think your vote doesn’t matter, or you don’t want to settle for a candidate you don’t like: still vote. A vote for no one is a vote for the wrong person. We have to take it upon ourselves to ensure that we hold our politicians accountable for what they’ve promised, and the best way to do that is to go out and vote.

Email Olivia MacDonald at olmacdonald@email.wm.edu.