Letter to the Editor: Millennials, voting – or abstaining – isn’t just about you

Karolina Ramos is a senior majoring in political science and The Hatchet’s former culture editor.

I’m writing in response to the blog, “Why I didn’t vote in the midterm elections,” by Robin Jones Kerr (Nov. 6, online).

You’ve heard it all before: Millennials are lazy, self-absorbed and prone to political inaction.

And if you were absent from the polls Tuesday or neglected to submit an absentee ballot, you’re part of the reason why people criticize our generation.

During election season, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the myriad issues on the nation’s plate, and it’s a hefty task to fully understand and consider the nuances of policies addressing everything from minimum wage hikes to marijuana legalization. But as students, we’re privileged to have access to a wealth of resources come election time, from seasoned political science professors to that handy thing called the Internet.

No one is demanding that you feign enthusiasm for, or worse, knowledge of, specific candidates, referenda or initiatives on the ballot. If you don’t feel compelled to cast a vote on a specific issue, you can leave that portion blank and move on to the initiatives you feel equipped to address, crafting a ballot that truly reflects your voice and the issues you prioritize during election season.

Yet voting is not exclusively an act of self-interest. Ballot initiatives that don’t directly affect your day-to-day experiences may be significant to other populations and community members, and voting presents an opportunity to invest in their well-being.

In D.C., the passage of Initiative 71, which would allow people 21 or older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use, may appear an irrelevant victory to non-smokers, but it also represents critical (if small) progress for social justice efforts: Though black people and white people use marijuana at largely the same rates, incarceration rates for marijuana possession are much higher for black people.

Abstaining from voting isn’t indicative of rebellion against the system – more typically, it represents a degree of laziness.

Millennials are maligned for our political disinterest and penchant for slacktivism. As students, we should show the critics that not only are we invested in issues that substantively affect our communities, but we’re committed to acting on them, too.

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