I am a political science major. I’m still 18. I absolutely adore all of the politicians I voted for (I actually had met all of them, save Barack Obama and Diane Feinstein, but there is still time!) and I was completely confident in my choices. It was my first time voting (in previous elections, I would guide my parents’ decisions… someone had to!) and I was so incredibly excited. I was also legitimately afraid I would somehow either miss the deadline, or they would illegally close the polls early or try to suppress my vote in some other way, even though we live in Berkeley, not Florida where voters are getting purged as I type. I was so emotionally driven both to vote and to be educated on all the people and issues I would be voting on.
Let’s back up a little bit. I’m white. I’m from a pretty well-to-do family — I’m not on any financial aid, and my grandparents started a college fund for me that day I was born. I have an excessive amount of privilege. I do not have a full-time or even part-time job, nor am I in need of one. I’ll be taking a few classes later this summer, and I just started an amazing internship, but right now my schedule is incredibly flexible and I can certainly make time to get to the polls.
The average working person? A single mother who does not have the time or resources to get to the polls? A differently-abled person who relies on others to get him out of the house? The fact that we vote on a Tuesday of all days, just in the middle of the week is ridiculous — the only people who can really afford to make sure they get to the polls on time are people who can afford to take a longer lunch break, or get off work early; the only people who can really afford to get to the polls are people who don’t have to worry about where their kids are, and who’s taking care of those kids. Absentee voting is harder to get in some areas or states than others, and it’s just another piece of paper for exhausted people to fill out at some point.
Look. I’ve been working with the Vote Coalition, part of the ASUC. If anyone knows the ins and outs of the voting process, it’d be me. And it was pretty straightforward to me. But compared to your average American, I’m more literate and more knowledgeable about these issues, not to mention I have the time, energy, and agency to get to the polling station. The average working American, even if they vote by mail, does not have the free time or energy to make a well-informed decision, if they even are able to cast their vote at all.
I believe that if we’re going to have government-approved holidays off from work to celebrate colonizing forces like Christopher Columbus, we should surely also be able to have government-approved holidays off of work so that ALL Americans may equally partake in the democracy we hold so dear. Polling places could be more easily wheelchair accessible, have a few toys for children who have to accompany their parents, and have information on propositions and politicians written in language for all people to be able to understand, offering multiple sides to every proposition and showing which candidates/parties support which propositions.
I think the way polling is set up is detrimental to the inclusion of all voting people, and that until we fix that, we cannot expect oppressed groups like women, people of color, queer people, and poor people to be able or willing to “get out the vote.” It’s no surprise that our politicians don’t seem to care what we say — very few of us can or do get out to vote. We can do a whole lot better, and then maybe we won’t see awful politicians like Scott Walker stay in office; maybe we will see progress, and move forward like our president would like us to.