by Hannah Weirs, Student Advocacy Fellow at the University of Mary Washington
Voting is one part of the political process that I have been excited about since I was a senior in high school. One of the first things I did on my 18th birthday was drive to the library to fill out my voter registration form. Even through waves of discouragement in politics and the political process, voting is the one part of United States politics that I have always held faith in. I know, however, that I am of a small minority of the youth population, and the American population in general that turns out to vote in non-presidential election years. The environment on my campus is passive, indifferent, apathetic. Whether it’s a general disinterest in off-year elections, or a lingering feelings of hopelessness from the 2016 election, my fellow students do not seem to know or care about what is happening in under two weeks. Most people I’ve spoken to, even the ones that consider themselves high-information voters, can’t even name the two main-party candidates for the three offices that are up for election.
The indifference, while not surprising, is still frustrating. We need to turn out in as big of numbers as possible, because state and local elections affect us just as much, if not more than presidential ones. Our state government has an enormous amount of power to decide things that determine our quality of life, such as how much health care coverage it will provide its citizens and what kind of reproductive and mental health services are accessible to Virginians. We as pro-choice Virginians should not be apathetic about who gets to control how much freedom we have over our own bodies, and getting to our polling place is the easiest way we can show our support for pro-choice candidates and the easiest way to demand our lawmakers take us seriously. Showing up to vote reminds our elected officials that we are here to hold them accountable, and we will not be ignored.
State and local elections select leaders that make decisions that affect our everyday lives the most, yet they are often the elections most ignored or forgotten about. The Virginia 2017 gubernatorial election is our first chance to vote “no” against the sexist, racist, xenophobic, bigoted actions of our current White House administration since Donald Trump was sworn in. We cannot waste our chance, we need to vote, and we need to tell as many other people as we can that they need to vote as well. Vote for Ralph Northam for governor, Justin Fairfax for lieutenant governor, and Mark Herring for attorney general Tuesday, November 7th!