“Young,Wild and Free” is a song about young people “just having fun,” but being free means much more than that to today’s youth. It is also about being free to have a voice in our democracy. But, I ask this: if we young people don’t go out to vote during the midterm elections today, are we really free?
Freedom has never really been something to take for granted—at least not for my ancestors, who weren’t guaranteed the ability to access their right to vote until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (and still face complications to this day). I personally think it would be a slap in the face to those African Americans before me, who fought day in and day out for everyone to have a say in electing those who call the shots in our country, if I didn’t exercise my right to vote and cast a ballot in every single election.
One of the most important levers of power young people can access in our democracy is the freedom to vote and choose our elected officials. Voters across America will decide who will control the House, Senate and numerous statehouses. In fact, the data from early voting in various states show that the youth vote has surged for this election. I myself, as a young adult, Howard University student, and activist in the LGBTQ Community, understand what is at stake if I don’t utilize my right to vote, but I want to make sure that all young people feel the same way—that true freedom only comes with exercising the right to vote.
Yes, it may take time and energy to go to a polling station and cast a vote. Yes, it is easier to just post a revitalizing tweet or Instagram post to show your political opinions, but why stop there? We can spend our time merely talking about the threats our communities face on social media, or we can go to the polls where our voices cannot be silenced. Only through elections can we actually change laws and the people signing off on them. We can and have used social media to push important matters to the forefront of public debate but we also have to put our phones down for just a few minutes and physically cast a vote that will be heard by our entire nation, rather than a social media post seen by just our followers. With the evolution of technology, we young people cannot blame anyone but ourselves if we are not informed of what is going on in the political world. We should all have a vast understanding of who, and what we are voting for because all of that information is literally at our fingertips.
Tuesday’s midterm elections will shape the future of U.S. politics over the next two years, and have reverberations that last far longer. In total, 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate and all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be selected in these elections.
The results of these elections will have a profound influence on the ability for this administration to continue its corrupt and anti-democratic practices unchecked. At both the state and the federal level, voters have an opportunity to stand up for accountability, ethics, and democracy. We also have a chance to stand up for the vulnerable communities we care about. If you value any of these things, your choice is clear: it’s time to put down the smartphone and head to the ballot box to exercise your right to vote.