The deadline to register to vote in Tompkins County for local and gubernatorial elections is Oct. 13. It is a deadline that will silently approach and, most likely, pass without much fanfare or attention from Ithaca College students.
Research has shown that millennials simply do not vote at the same rate as their older counterparts. Younger voters have always been less likely to vote, but experts are afraid that millennials care less about voting than previous generations. In the 2014 congressional election, four-fifths of millennials failed to show up to vote, compared to the 12 percent of over-55 voters who failed to show up, according to estimates from The Economist. This is not to say that younger voters — in particular, college-aged voters — do not care about what happens in politics. Rather, young voters do not see voting as a civic duty, and thus do not feel obligated to vote.
While much more attention is afforded to national elections, voting on a local level allows citizens to have a more hands-on impact on day-to-day decisions that affect their lives.
The population of Ithaca nearly doubles during the academic year, with nearly 22,000 students enrolled at Cornell University and nearly 6,800 students at Ithaca College. In other words, students are a vital part of the greater Ithaca community and can become a vital part of local democracy.
It is crucial for students to become integrated into the communities they live, work and learn in, and voting in local elections is a good way to do this. It doesn’t even have to be the hyperlocal elections of Ithaca and Tompkins County — if students feel more connected to their hometowns, they should vote in those localities. After all, the policies created by local politicians and through local governing bodies will have an impact on students in one way or another.
The people who are voted onto local legislative bodies — town councils or advisory boards — are the ones who create the policies that dictate our lives, not the people elected in Washington, D.C..
Participating in local elections is a way for students to exercise their democratic rights in the purest, most tangible way possible.