Letter from the editor: Get out and vote

By: Julie Pike, Editor-in-Chief

Coming up Nov. 6, students across the country have a chance to participate in democracy. This midterm election we have the gubernatorial election, questions to improve Maine universities and community colleges and elections for an open seat on the Senate and two open seats for the House of Representatives.

It’s our right as U.S. citizens to vote, something that not every country offers to their people. Our democracy relies on the participation of voters, but students are often a low percentage of those who actually vote.

What many students don’t realize is that their vote can make a difference. It may seem that one individual vote won’t do anything, but it all adds up. The more we as students can encourage each other to vote, the more that young people can make a difference in our country.

Statista estimates that there are close to 20 million students enrolled in public and private schools across the U.S. The Campus Vote Project, which works with schools across the countries to empower more students to register and vote, reported that young adults, ages 18 to 24, make up about 21 percent of the voting population in 2014. However the actual voting turnout is much lower than that, only 17 percent.

Imagine if all 20 million of those students voted, that would surely make a big difference in the outcome of elections. Some elections can come down to a difference of just a few votes, but if the 21 percent of eligible young voters participate, we can change that.

It’s also important to keep in mind that we, as college students, should care about how our country is run as we emerge into full-time working adults. Elections will directly impact us as well as the lives on many more Americans, especially this upcoming midterm election. College students may be wondering how they can have a true impact on their country and becoming an active participant voter is a way to do just that.

Students are generally more likely to vote in bigger elections, such as presidential election years. However for this midterm election, we’re voting for a new governor in Maine. This new leader of our state will set the political agenda for the next four years. Governors can also have significant control over government budgeting, which can impact us as students in how much funding is put towards higher education.

As college students, we should feel drawn to elections such as this year’s midterm election, as its outcome will have a direct impact on us. Not only are we choosing a new leader for our state, but a question on the Maine state ballot has the potential to substantially improve our university.

Question 4, a $49 million dollar bond initiative to improve schools across the University of Maine System, will have the biggest impact for us at USM, including initiatives to create a new career and student center in Portland.

USM will receive the biggest cut of that bond package, just over $25 million. This bond has the potential to provide new buildings, renovate and improve older facilities and improve programs in ways that will better prepare USM students for the workforce. It will focus on areas such as nursing, engineering and IT, all fields that are in need of skilled workers.

One barrier that holds students back from voting is being unaware of what’s on the ballot or who the candidates are.This issue of The Free Press works to change that for students at USM. We want our community to be informed about the questions they can expect to see and to know more about the candidates in this election.

Also on the ballot this year, is a $15 million dollar bond for community colleges in Maine, including all seven throughout the state. Similar to Question 4, Question 5 focuses on adding funding to improve educational programs at community colleges. Two major questions on the ballot that affect the future of higher education in Maine.

There are also many students here at USM who may be new to voting and are unsure of how the process works. Luckily in Maine it is relatively simple to register and vote, as our state allows for same-day voting registration, as well as early voting.

Read on to find out what you’ll see on the ballot, how to register to vote and to find out more about the big question this year, Question 4.

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