OPINION: Politics 2016—student involvement and lack thereof

Helen Rogalski, Managing Editor

I think we can all agree that the 2016 presidential campaigns have not turned out the way we expected. Where to begin? Many were surprised with the Bernie Sanders campaign gaining immeasurable momentum followed by a sabotaged ending. Few were surprised by Hillary Clinton winning the Democratic nomination. Lots were surprised by Ted Cruz’s withdrawal. And finally, it seems like everyone is surprised that Donald Trump has gotten as far as he has.

Regardless of political affiliation or candidate preferences, 2016 has been a notable year in politics for everyone. For many of us here at UNC Wilmington, it will be our first time having the opportunity to vote for the next president of the United States. How exciting!

While the media’s main focus seems to be the offensive statements made by Trump, and the notorious email scandal with Clinton, what I hear most about in my daily life is how people aren’t sure they’re even going to vote. Some were hardcore Bernie fans who resent Hillary, and others are Republicans who can’t bear to vote for Trump. No matter the affiliation, the lack of involvement in the upcoming election will contribute to America’s low voter turnout rate, which is roughly 60%.

This voter turnout rate means that almost half of the US’s eligible voters don’t show up to the polls during presidential elections. During midterm elections the turnout is even lower. My question is, how can so many people justify not being involved? There is no doubt that who our president is affects all of our lives directly.

The response to this question is usually the same. The people not voting don’t see a candidate on the ballot that they’d want to be president, or that they like, so they just refrain. In a way, I can understand this idea. Why vote for someone you don’t 100 percent support? But I can only understand this idea for a few moments.

It’s not like I agree 100 percent with the candidate I’m going to vote for. I don’t. There are things I disagree with. But I don’t take my right to vote lightly. We are all so lucky to be able to have an actual, real, true say in who will lead our country! Politics can be infuriating and things can be frustrating, but this is a right that we should all exercise.

A big problem is that it’s easier not to vote at all, especially for students. We’re busy people. Add that with not liking either candidate and it makes sense that voter turnout is especially low among people our age.

However, if collectively all university students made the decision to get involved with the 2016 Election, we could actually make a noteworthy influence. Every eligible person gets one vote, regardless of their wealth, priorities, affiliation, etc. We have as much influence as anybody.

Now that we know how much our votes matter, we each have to pick who to vote for. Another idea I hear a lot is “choosing the lesser of two evils” when it comes to voting Clinton or Trump. I get it. At the same time, I really think that if we all do our research, we’ll know which person we would rather have as president. So, check out their platforms. Scope around their websites. Watch a few speeches. Figure out which issues matter most to you and which candidate will best handle them.

If young voters across America can get involved with this election, we can make a real difference in who becomes our president and how this country will change throughout the next four years.