Voting smart matters

By Meredith Howard | Copy Desk Chief

Voting matters. But unfortunately, many college-aged citizens fall victim to one of two cardinal sins in election years.

Some simply select the candidate their parents have chosen without researching platforms for themselves. There’s nothing wrong with agreeing with your relatives’ political views, but you need to figure out for yourself if someone’s policies align with your values.

Others feign political indifference and forgo showing up to the polls altogether. This is also problematic because politics affect everyone, even those who don’t consider themselves to be activists.

Politics start and end wars, dictate racial and gender equity laws and regulate the economy. Everyone is impacted by those decisions. Also, even people who claim to “stay out of politics” are making a political decision by allowing current politicians to achieve their policy goals unopposed.

The solution to both of these issues is education. It may seem intimidating to examine dozens of candidates’ policy goals to choose who you think is best for the country, but it’s truly necessary to be a contributor to American democracy.

To tackle this issue, you should first identify what your own political values are. Figure out how you feel about immigration, foreign policy, climate change solutions and federal taxes.

Then, update yourself on who’s in the presidential race at the moment (as the democratic field often changes) and browsing the candidates’ campaign websites to see what they stand for and against. Another resource is voters’ guides. Politico, USA Today and CNN all have helpful resources available online.

Watching debates, studying voting records and engaging in meaningful conversation with your friends and family are all helpful ways to develop your political views as well.

Don’t be discouraged if you’re not head over heels for anyone in the running. Pick the candidate who’s closest to your heart, and consider campaigning for them. Making a donation, canvassing or even just talking to your peers about why you like them can make a difference. And it’s okay if you decide later on that you want to vote for someone else. Spend some time in the news and keep yourself updated so you will know if you want to change your mind.

The result of making a well-educated vote is knowing that you’ve done your part to work toward the America you want to see. It’s disappointing to see your candidate lose, but at least you can know you’ve done everything you can.