I remember the feeling the first time I voted. It was during the 2016 presidential election. I remember confidently walking into my Pennsylvania voting center, bubbling the ballot in by hand and feeding it through an electronic machine to ensure it counted. I remember being thanked for doing my civic duty. Despite being distraught in the days that followed, on Nov. 8, 2016, I remember feeling powerful.
Why wouldn’t someone want that feeling of power?
After I arrived at AU the following September, I was convinced that I found not just a few students, but an entire student body who cared deeply about all things politics, including voting. That’s why when I heard about the Eagles Elect initiative that launched this September, “to help students, faculty, staff, and alumni register to vote, receive election reminders, and get absentee ballots,” I was confused.
The idea of our University promoting voting appeared patronizing to me, especially because I assumed that everyone at AU would inevitably vote. The Princeton Review did not give us our title of “most politically active students” for us to turn around and not vote in the midterms in November. We all know that it’s good to vote because it induces needed change.
My quick assumption was soon challenged, however, by my own life. When I arrived on campus this year, I will admit that I didn't know the necessary steps for applying for an absentee ballot or if I was even still eligible. After extensive research, multiple calls to my mom and purchasing a $0.75 envelope and stamp from the on-campus UPS store, I sent in the form to receive my absentee ballot. Through the entire process, I kept thinking that if I didn’t have a computer, if I didn’t have a voting-aware mother, if I didn’t have money to spare on printing, an envelope and a stamp, I wouldn’t be able to vote.
It is ignorant and privileged of me to overlook the numerous obstacles that keep people from voting each election. Not everyone is equally granted that powerful feeling from casting a ballot because we are not all provided with the same tools. Now, with Eagles Elect, we have an initiative assisting us in the registration process, and we should, therefore, feel obligated to perform our civic duty while remembering not all Americans have the same access to this right.
While voting is good for our country, it is not always easy. The University recognizes this and is willing to help their students combat the obstacles. AU’s initiative is run through Democracy Works, whose mission is to “make voting a simple, seamless experience for all Americans so that no one misses an election.” By implementing Eagles Elect, American is announcing their active role in changing the statistic that only 50 percent of eligible 18-29-year-olds voted in the 2016 presidential election.
This voting activism narrative is not an original idea. This summer, the Parkland students who were affected by a tragic school shooting this past February traveled on a voting tour to encourage those in Generation Z to vote by holding registration events across the country. If so many people and institutions are working to make sure we vote, I believe that perhaps the power I felt voting for the first time is a force worth reckoning with, a force we can utilize for good.
Now that we have been provided with an opportunity through Eagles Elect to ensure our vote counts, it is up to us to actually use the resource. I encourage everyone to follow Eagles Elect on Twitter to receive helpful tips on how to access TurboVote and other information regarding on-campus events.
The University can promote and tweet endlessly about voting, but unless we choose to remain passionate and concerned, nothing will change. No initiative can require you to care. Let’s vote!
Stephanie Mirah is a sophomore in the School of Communication and a columnist for The Eagle.
This article originally appeared in The Eagle's October 2018 fall print edition.