Li Shen: Stick It To The Man

Want to change things? Then vote.

by Sabrina Li Shen | 10/25/18 2:05am

 This weekend, I spent some time knocking on doors in Hanover as part of a get-out-the-vote effort. Door-knocking in a college town has its pros and cons. Pro: People are generally nice and willing to talk to random college students, especially when said college students look cold and a little miserable in the 40-degree weather. Con: Finding specific student housing apartments requires immense navigational skill, of which I have none. How can you find apartment #21B when the number “2” has fallen off the door? More cons: Lots of people do not answer their doors. Even the people who do answer don’t always want to talk once they realize the knock doesn’t come from a package delivery.

Despite the cold and the numerous abandoned houses I knocked on, my hour and a half door-knocking shift was the most well-spent time of my day. In 90 minutes, a fellow doorknocker and I knocked on more than 30 doors and talked to eight or nine people, including two who hadn’t planned to vote but changed their minds after talking to us. Most of the people who answered their doors spoke to us with kindness and appreciation, and so many of them showed genuine interest in and passion for the local elections. Notably, all of those people were adults. The college students who answered their doors came off as polite and well-spoken, but they generally seemed confused about the details of the upcoming elections.

College student voter turnout in America is low. In 2016, just 49 percent of eligible college students voted. I get it — students lead busy lives. Between practices, meetings, office hours, guest lectures and avoiding hand-foot-and-mouth disease, the argument goes, who has time to make the trek to Hanover High School to vote? Plus, it’s only the midterms, so if you miss this one, you’ll just vote in 2020. I felt the same way, up until I voted for the first time this September.

During the 2016 elections, I missed the registration cutoff by eight days. After turning 18, I didn’t think much about voting, even though I could be found giving long-winded speeches about political issues at any given moment. I was 19-going-on-20 when I voted for the first time, and it felt magical. Maybe that’s silly to say, but voting made me feel important — it made me feel like a real adult, like I had played a role in this great American experiment of democracy. It also made me feel intensely hypocritical for all the times I disagreed with some new policy or statement from the government and then proceeded to do nothing about it. All of my impassioned monologues had amounted to expended oxygen — they didn’t mean much more if I didn’t vote.

If you care about something, go vote. Voting is not the only thing you can do to make a difference, and it won’t always make the difference you want, but it sure beats studying for a midterm. More importantly, this may be the last time you can vote as a college student in New Hampshire. Thanks to House Bill 1264, a state bill taking effect in 2019 that may make it harder for out-of-state college students to vote in New Hampshire, many students’ right to vote is set to expire. “Your vote matters now more than ever” might seem a tired and overused phrase, but at this moment it could not be more relevant.

More than anything else, my door-knocking experience reminded me of the world outside of Dartmouth — a world that we will enter in a few short years. The way we live out there depends on what we do in here, and not just in terms of grades or internships or letters of recommendations — if and how we vote will shape our future, too. So get out and vote. Vote because you care about an issue bigger than yourself. Vote because you can envision the world you want to live in and this isn’t it (not yet, at least). Vote because you have the good fortune to live in a time and a place where you can vote at all. Alternatively, our generation gets a lot of flak for having anti-authority issues, so let me put it this way: vote so you can stick it to the man.  

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