When I came to UT, I didn’t know anything about the voter registration process. The gubernatorial race was all over the news, so I knew I wanted to vote. I just didn’t know what registering entailed, and I was far too shy to approach the students encouraging me to register and ask them for help. My pride was also an impediment. Once, to avoid the appearance of being uninformed and uninterested, I lied and told a cute guy trying to register me that of course I was registered to vote.
The moral of the story is that we all have barriers, both perceived and real, to registering to vote. My fellow VDRs and I hear the reasons all the time. It takes too long. I’m late for class. My vote doesn’t matter. While I vehemently disagree with that last one, I understand that registering to vote seems like a hassle for busy college kids like us. It doesn’t have to be that way, and groups such as Hook the Vote are here to make the process easier.
This upcoming Tuesday, Oct. 11, is the last day to register to vote in the general election. Hook the Vote and our fellow members of the Civic Engagement Alliance will be spread out around campus all day to get as many students registered as possible. At night, we’ll host a rally featuring musical performances, puppies and pizza. We want registering to be easy and accessible, so come see us!
After you register, it is essential that you vote. You may be wondering why your one vote matters in a state of 27 million people. While it’s true that a single vote is unlikely to decide the presidential election, a handful of votes makes a world of difference in local and state races.
To that end, also keep in mind the many important down-ballot races, the outcomes of which may influence decisions made about tuition costs, guns on campus and the price of housing. Elected officials listen to the most vocal of their constituents and those most likely to vote; if students are not among these groups, our issues will not be prioritized, despite the fact that we make up a large portion of our House, Senate, and City Council districts.
Please vote, and vote early. Starting Oct. 24, you can walk into the Flawn Academic Center at any time between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and cast your ballot. The earlier you vote, the shorter the lines will be. On Election Day for the primaries this past spring, lines were wrapped around the FAC, and wait times exceeded three hours. That said, if you do decide to vote on Nov. 8, stay in line until you get to vote, even if it is 7:01 p.m. and people start thinking the polls are closed. I promise you will get to vote as long as you stay in line.
Voting shouldn’t be a daunting task, but it can feel like one, especially for first-time voters. If you’re unsure about any step along the way, don’t worry. Reach out, get answers and go vote! Your voice is too important to be silenced this election cycle.
Schumm is a public health junior from Bellingham, Massachusetts. She is the agency director for Hook the Vote, which you can follow on Twitter @HooktheVote.