Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

With November just a few weeks away, the U.S. Midterm Elections are rapidly approaching, and with it the responsibility of turning out to the polls registered, informed and prepared to have your vote heard. 

The upcoming general election for a number of governmental positions will occur on Nov. 8. Encompassing both state and national races, the positions will include Governor, Lieutenant Governor, U.S. House and Senate, and the State House and Senate.

One of the most closely watched races is that of the gubernatorial position. A contested race between Josh Shapiro (D) and Doug Mastriano (R), topical subjects such as abortion, mail-in voting and gun laws are on the ballot. Recent polls suggest Shapiro is leading, including the project FiveThirtyEight which projects a lead of +10.5 points.

Also in focus is the election of the U.S. Senate seat, a race between the presiding Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania John Fetterman (D) and popular TV personality Mehmet Oz (R). Recent polls show Fetterman in a slight lead, despite Oz’s recent efforts to expand his support.

The midterms will ultimately decide who has control over the U.S. House and Senate. For that reason, turning out on election day and having your voice heard is essential. However, in a study performed in 2020 by the Pew Research Center, it was found that of the voting age population in the U.S., only 55.7% actually turned out to vote on election day. 

One reason why this statistic may be so low, especially in the midterm elections, is the perception that the midterms are of lesser importance in contrast to presidential ones. Nonetheless, these local and state elections do indeed matter a great deal. Dr. Peter Loedel, a professor in the Political Science Department, commented on the matter, stating that, “Many of the issues facing this country and young voters — from access to health care for women, affordable [and] quality higher education, racial injustice and addressing climate change — can only be solved when young voters turnout to vote.”

Acknowledging the magnitude of this election, various organizations at WCU have taken on the challenge of boosting voter turnout. One club, the WCU Democrats, situated a table on the academic quad in early September helping students register to vote for free, and this club has since held informational meetings on other voting resources. 

Another factor that can inhibit voter turnout is obstacles actually getting to the polls. Margaret Gardiner, president of the WCU Democrats Club, shared how, “something else that is super important that many do not think about [is] having a plan to vote. Elections happen on Tuesdays, and that can be a very hectic day of the week, especially for college students.” In order to facilitate students’ ability to get to the polls on Nov. 8, the club plans to utilize a carpool system throughout the day in order to help students without cars on campus still have the chance to vote in person.

Another common method of voting for college students is use of an absentee ballot. Particularly useful for out-of-state students, an absentee ballot enables individuals to vote by mail prior to Nov. 8. Registration for an absentee ballot can be done online, and it must be done before the Oct. 24 deadline in order to vote in this year’s election. 

After registering, only a few steps remain. Prior to election day, it’s important to determine where your polling location will be if you are voting in-person, research what candidates are on the ballot to decide who you’ll vote for and ultimately have a plan for how you’ll get there.

In sum, opportunities provided in and around campus can and should be taken advantage of to exert your right to vote on election day. As stated by Loedel, “Many U.S. citizens — women, minorities, young people — have historically been denied the right to vote. Today, there are still efforts to deny people the right to vote … use your right to vote now — to protect it for you and future generations.”

Olivia Schlinkman is a second-year Political Science major with a minor in Spanish.


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