I spent Super Tuesday in an aggressively apparent state of delirious excitement. That morning, in true millennial fashion, I dressed up, filled my water bottle, posted several times on social media, explored the new political filters on Snapchat, and texted a few people about polling locations to arrange carpools. When I arrived at my suburban high school, however, I wasn’t surprised to find that my enthusiasm was more of an exception than a rule among the other voters walking the halls. I tried to remain unperturbed, but by the third time I overheard someone say, “I didn’t even register lol,” the indifference began to eat away at me. In my next class, I finally brought up the excitement disparity I had been observing with a fellow classmate. She responded flippantly, saying “Well, you’re only excited because you have a candidate you’re weirdly obsessed with.” I was taken aback, not knowing how to answer.
She wasn’t wrong about the obsession part – that is really quite true – but rather about that being the sole cause of my excitement. My elation came not from my love of Bernie Sanders, but from the very act of voting itself. To put it another way, I would have eagerly volunteered to drive not only Sanders supporters to the polls, but Trump supporters, Hillary supporters, and any and all write-in voters who needed a lift.
Why this excitement? I thought about it as I headed to my polling station. Part of it was definitely privilege – voting is in no way a difficulty for me. I had access to the internet to look up where to vote, a car to drive myself there, a family who reminded me to register. I didn’t have to wait in line for hours or put up with rude looks or snide comments as I handed in my ballot. I even got two extra “I Voted” stickers when I told the official I couldn’t decide whether to put my sticker on my coat or on my water bottle. All of this played a big part not only in my excitement, but in my ability to vote itself, and I am extremely grateful for that.
As I stepped out of the polling station and walked back to my car, I pushed deeper. What was the root of my excitement? Why did the mere act of filling in a bubble have adrenaline shooting through me? Then, as I filtered the Instagram I had taken of my ballot, I remembered why- because, in that one moment my pen was on my ballot, politicians everywhere had to care about what I thought.
Youth (18-24 year olds) make up nearly 20% of the population, but in the most recent midterms elections, we had the lowest rate of voter turnout. We millennials are getting a reputation for being the absolute worst at voting. That pisses me off, because it means that when politicians make decisions on issues that impact my generation the most, like global warming or student loan debt, they are going to value my parents’ opinions over my own, because that is who they think will elect them
Representation matters, and to make diversity of all kinds a reality in our government and in our government’s actions, that representation first needs to exist in the population that votes for them. Unfortunately, millions of Americans are blocked from their constitutional right to participate in the democratic system by voter suppression and an outdated voting system. But if you are not one of those people, and you are of an identity that is not currently accurately represented among the voters of America, you should be beyond excited to vote, regardless of the candidates. We have the amazing opportunity to prove to the people who govern our country that we are paying attention to what they do, that we care about the choices they make, and that we have the voice and the audacity to change who has their job if they don’t do it well. That is power. Even if your candidate’s quest for the oval office ends as sadly as Jeb Bush’s, you showed up, you were counted, and so you mattered.
Satisfied both with the number of likes on my Instagram and the results of my quest for personal understanding, I headed to work at Sub/Urban Justice, where I emanated even more of my voting fever. That night, while watching Netflix and refreshing the results of the primaries on my computer, I sent that girl in my class a text. It read, “The real question is not why I was excited to vote. The real question is why in the hell were you not?”