Opinion: Time to stop feeling guilty and do something

Alexander

Alexander

Cassidy Alexander

I have a confession to make. It has been keeping me up at night. I cannot look some of my friends and family in the face. I have been trying to ignore it and act like nothing is wrong, but I can’t anymore.

On Tuesday, Nov. 4, I didn’t vote in the gubernatorial election.

Immediately I feel like I need to offer up a string of apologies. I almost refused to write this article because I felt so guilty (and didn’t want to tell my political-minded colleagues at Spinnaker about my failure), but then I realize that I am not alone. I am part of a significant portion of people who did not vote and it looks like we all regret it.

When asked whether or not she voted in the midterm elections, exercise science freshman Piper Austin said, “No, I wanted to. I’m so sorry. I wanted to. I had like the busiest– I honestly don’t know when I could vote, I had like the busiest Tuesday ever.”

I have a similar reaction when people ask me if I voted– apologetic and ashamed. Like business freshman Jess Semple and computer science freshman Jacob Conley, I cited my busy schedule as a reason I could not vote.

“I never registered so I just never got around to,” Semple said. “I was occupied with other things, so I just never had the time to register. I would have [voted] if I registered, but…”

Daniel Rodriguez, a public health graduate student, said he did not vote because he did not feel strongly about any of the candidates.

“I didn’t really feel that enthusiasm, I didn’t strongly support any of the candidates running,” Rodriguez said. However, he does think it is important for people to vote.

“I don’t want to say that you’re being a traitor, but I do think that it’s kind of stupid for you to support someone and not vote for them,” he said.

Despite those of us who are not taking advantage of opportunities to be involved in democracy, a good amount of people our age are doing so.

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE), 10 million voters between the ages of 18 and 29 cast ballots across the country on Nov. 4, which is a turnout rate of 21.5%.

CIRCLE concluded that, although the midterm elections were overwhelmingly in favor of the GOP, the youth vote tended to be Democratic. This is what kept the elections so close. According to AP, Rick Scott won by 48.16% of the votes, compared to Charlie Crist’s 47.05%.

Also cutting it close was the decision on Amendment 2, which would have legalized medical marijuana in Florida if passed. The amendment needed 60% approval to be passed. According to Politico, it received 57.6% approval, failing by a small margin.

This is an example of how important it is for people our age to vote. According to CIRCLE, 4 out of 5 youth voters support the legalization of medical marijuana. If more people our age had voted, the amendment might have passed.

With only five percent of UNF’s students voting in the student government elections, it’s not surprising that voters between ages 18 and 29 made up only 13% of those who voted in the midterm elections Nov. 4, according to an NBC article.

Recently, Spinnaker published an article exploring the question of student apathy. In the article, UNF assistant professor of political science Dr. Michael Binder says that students are not voting in campus elections because there are no direct benefits.

“They’re not impacting your classes. They’re taking your fees anyway. You know there’s not necessarily a great deal of incentive,” Binder said. “Because, guess what, everybody has other lives.”

These “other lives” that Binder referenced may be a good enough excuse for not voting in SG elections. However, voting in the midterm elections has a more direct effect on you.

Before the election, Spinnaker posted an easy-to-reference breakdown of the two candidates’ policies. This shows just how different the two candidates are, and alludes to how different the future of the state could have been.

Whether you are happy with how the election turned out or not, there is no doubt that it could have very easily gone the other way. Scott won by a margin of 66,127 votes, or just 1.11% of the votes cast. Had more people voted, the race could have ended differently.

We should feel guilty. As mentioned earlier, people our age tend to vote a certain way that could have drastically changed the outcome of the election.

Because young people did not vote, Charlie Crist lost by a very narrow margin. Because young people did not vote, medical marijuana was not legalized by a very narrow margin. Because young people did not vote, we failed our state and our fellow citizens.

I know that our country has innumerable faults that need to be addressed. But one of the things we do right is giving our citizens the opportunity to decide for themselves how they want to be governed. If we do not take advantage of the choices we have, then we let our rights go to waste.

After the next election, I will not be apologizing because I didn’t vote. I won’t cite my busy schedule as an excuse. Instead, I’ll carve out time to make the most out of rights that other people in the world aren’t fortunate enough to have. Instead of apologizing, I will be voting next time around. What about you?

Email Cassidy Alexander at [email protected]