Edit desk: The red, white and blue plaid jumper

Emily Okrepkie

Emily Okrepkie

For nine years of my life, I wore a red, white and blue plaid jumper to my local fire hall on the first Tuesday in November.

The jumper, which was my school uniform, was a fittingly patriotic outfit for the occasion. Every year, either before school or after my parents came home from work, I wore my plaid uniform to the fire hall for Election Day.

“Voting is a privilege that not everyone in the world has,” my mother would say as she selected the individuals she hoped would lead the country at the local, state and federal levels. I wasn’t voting at the time, but I eagerly waited for the day when I could vote.

Voting was commonplace as I grew up, and I incorrectly assumed everyone in America voted when they came of age. At the time it was difficult to grasp the idea that by voting, I would be contributing to a democracy and having a direct effect on something bigger than me. This notion is both amazing and terrifying. Voting is both a right and a responsibility in my eyes, and Election Day is a time when I must exercise that right and bear the burden of its responsibility.

Election Day is arguably one of the most important days of the year for our country’s form of government. A democracy, which is a form of government based on the principle of citizens’ participation, cannot effectively serve its citizens if those citizens do not vote.

By voting, we are choosing who we want to represent our interests in the government. We are given the opportunity to express our opinions, determine which issues will be discussed and what laws will be passed. We should not take this opportunity lightly.

As a college student and a member of the millennial generation, I have opinions that are similar to my peers, but ones that often differ from the opinions of members of other generations. Members of Generation X are generally thought to be between the ages of 54 and 36, and baby boomers are those who are between the ages of 51 to 69. Seventy percent of millennials are in favor of the legalization of gay marriage, as opposed to 59 percent of Generation X and 45 percent of baby boomers, according to the Pew Research Center. Similarly, 68 percent of millennials favor the legalization of marijuana, whereas only 52 percent of Generation X favor its legalization along with 50 percent of Baby Boomers, according to the Pew Research Center.

These fundamental differences in opinion separate our generation from other generations, and we must vote to change the laws about these issues or elect leaders who will change them.

Even though we millenials are not short on opinions, we are short on voter turnout. In 2014, 23.1 percent of millenials voted, but significantly more people between the ages of 45 and 64 voted, according to the Pew Research Center.

We have opinions, but we cannot have those opinions voiced in government if we don’t elect people who will express them. There are differences in opinion based largely on generation, and there are differences in voter turnout based largely on generation. To ensure that our opinions are being heard, we need to vote.

We millennials have been referred to as narcissistic, broke and lazy on more than one occasion. Regardless of those modifiers, we are slated to be the most educated generation in American history, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. We need to use this education to influence the conversations that are happening in the government at all levels, and the best way to do that is to vote. Instead of focusing on the modifiers that previous generations so graciously have assigned us, we should patriotically engage in political discussions and rebrand ourselves as the politically active generation.

We have the power to influence change, and voting is the best place to begin to bring about change. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a democrat from Vermont, has received an outpouring of support from millennials at his rallies and on social media. While this shows that our generation can be politically active, Andy Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, said in an interview with The Washington Post that this support does not usually translate into a win at the polls because these millennial supporters are the least likely to vote.

As the millennial generation, we are the next generation with the power to influence legislation on critical issues. We cannot do this, however, if we do not vote.

There is no need to wear a red, white and blue jumper on Tuesday, but there is a need for millennials to vote.

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