Hilltop Voices: Caitlin Troutman

Caitlin Troutman articulates the importance of voting in the upcoming midterm election.

After the shooting and resulting outrage in Ferguson, Mo., it became widely known that the City Council and police force in the suburb were not representative of the city’s demographics. In a city with a population that is 67.4 percent African-American, five of its six city council members are Caucasian. Understandably, many felt that parts of the population were underrepresented and underserved.

While there are several factors that influence these statistics, a large part of the issue is who votes. Only 12 percent of eligible voters voted in the last Ferguson city-council election. I do not blame the people who did not vote; rather, I blame the system that is constructed to make people think their vote does not matter or does not affect them.

On a national level, only 41 percent of eligible voters participated in the last midterm election. Of those voters, only 23.1 percent of them were under the age of 30.

To many, the midterms seem less important than a presidential election. In truth, they have a much more direct effect on the people, since popular votes rather than electoral college votes are counted. Unfortunately, since voter turnout is so low, this means that smaller group of people are making decisions concerning important state issues like transportation, education and state tax laws.

The upcoming Nov. 4 election is especially important, as the political party divide in Congress could potentially shift. The Democrats may lose their majority in the Senate, as many seats in swing states are open, and both Congress and President Obama have low approval ratings. This means the midterm results will dictate Congress’ direction for the next term.

As someone who Scotch-taped her first “I voted” sticker to her bedroom mirror, it pains me to hear someone say that his or her vote does not matter, especially since “just one vote” often becomes the refrain of an entire group. The truth is, politicians care about votes. They are concerned with addressing the issues their constituents want addressed; so if our age group does not vote, important issues like birth control coverage or the minimum wage may be neglected. That should be enough motivation to get informed and vote in November.

The last day to register to vote for the Nov. 4 election is Oct. 8. Missouri residents can begin the registration process on the Missouri Secretary of State’s website: http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/goVoteMissouri/register.aspx.

From there, you can register using a tablet or touchscreen device or by printing out a form and mailing it in to an election authority. Alternatively, you can register in person at a local election authority, which can also be found on the Secretary of State’s website, along with information on your designated polling place and instructions on how to vote absentee. The polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. on election day. While I know this is difficult for working people and students’ schedules, it is a priority for which we should make time.

We are incredibly lucky to have the right to vote in a democratic election. Suffrage is something people, particularly women and minorities, have fought for throughout history. If we don’t take advantage of that right, we are letting others make important decisions for us.


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