Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison
We’re used to people thinking we’re just about sports. And while that’s a big part of who we are (it is in our name), we’re also a lot more than that. We pride ourselves on being a campus leader helping you build health habits and live your best life. With the 2018 midterm election upon us, we’re here to remind you to exercise your right to vote.
Most people know that voting is an important civic duty, but many still don’t go to the polls. In the 2016 election, slightly less than half (48.8%) of UW-Madison students voted, according to a Tufts University report. We can do better.
To understand what motivates students, we sat down with two passionate voting leaders on campus and asked them, “Why do you vote?”
“I used to work in a senior living community with 90-100 year old women, and they always talked about how important voting was, because they remembered when their aunts and moms registered and voted for the first time,” Associated Students of Madison Vote Coordinator Beth Alleman said. “Voting is a right you can’t take for granted, because not everyone has always had it. Voting is the best way to honor the sacrifices of those who fought and died for you to have that right.”
In addition to honoring the activism of previous generations, Beth reminded us that a vote could change history now: “We have to treat every election as an unknown, because you don’t get a text telling you how close an election will be. There was a state legislature race in Virginia in 2017 that ended tied, so they decided who won by picking a name out of a bowl. That race changed the balance of the parties in the Virginia State House, so you never know if your vote could change history.”
This past April, in Beloit, Wisconsin, only about 50 miles from Madison, a $28 million school referendum came down to just two votes. Your vote matters.
“An issue I’ve seen among young voters is frustration with the whole political system,” ASM Chair of the Legislative Affairs Committee Laura Downer said. “I remember being on my floor freshman year during the 2016 election, trying to convince people to vote, and hearing ‘But there’s no point, one vote doesn’t matter.’ People are tired of the system, and they think voting plays into the system, instead of realizing it has the power to change the system.”
“To those people, I would say that if you’re frustrated with how things are now, go vote. If you’re worried about the future, go vote. If you’re annoyed with the past, go vote. Voting is the most direct way to affect change in the area around you.”
Keep in mind that the “area around you” could mean your physical community, but also mean your career and life.
“When people tell me they don’t vote, I ask them their major,” Beth said. “For example, I’m a nursing student, so policy directly affects me and my career. Everything from pay rates, to insurance for patients, to new research on life-saving drugs, depends on decisions made by our government.”
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that your vote is your individual voice. “You don’t have to tell people who you vote for, a vote is a vote no matter which party it goes to,” Laura said.
Election Day is on Tuesday, November 6, but you can vote on campus now through November 2 if you’re registered to vote in Madison. Early voting locations are open Monday – Friday at Memorial Union or Union South from 12pm-6pm and at the Student Activity Center from 10:00am-3:30pm. You will need to present your ID to receive a ballot. If you are not already registered to vote at your current address, you may register to vote with proof of residence, at any of those three locations. Visit My Vote Wisconsin to see a preview of your ballot, or, if you plan to wait until Election Day, to find your polling place.
Remember, your voice has the power to create the world you want to live in. Why will you exercise your right to vote?
Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison