Nearly one year ago, we witnessed President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump go neck and neck in the 2020 presidential election.
In the past decade, the U.S. has broken into an extended period of political polarization. The 2020 presidential election had the highest voter turnout percentage since the election of 1900 – despite the growing severity of the pandemic.
With this in mind, the voting frenzy at Lehigh was also evident. Political activism encouraging individuals to “use your right” and know that “your vote counts” was abundant on our peers’ social media pages. Hundreds of Lehigh students lined up outside of the voting booths by Broughal Middle School and the Banana Factory – votes were also sent by mail.
For arguably the most important presidential election in the past century, the energy was there— the true spirit of using citizen power to persuade the future political landscape of the nation.
In the holistic view of the nation, Pennsylvania is named as a “swing state” – one of few states that could reasonably be won by either the Democratic or Republican party and could single-handedly decide the outcome of a presidential election.
Narrowing in further, Northampton County is considered a “swing county,” crucial in deciding the collective vote of the state. Northampton County residents are polarized enough to make the outcome ambiguous.
With that ambiguity, our votes truly count.
Last year proved that we, as students in a swing county, brought the energy of emphasizing the importance of voting in the 2020 presidential election.
This year, let’s keep that energy with the local municipal elections that take place one week from today. Local elections deserve the same relentless attention as national elections.
All community members registered to vote in the county, including students, can vote in this election.
With the top level of political power in question, we brought the needed activism to encourage students to vote. Yet, we tend to neglect that elections occur around this time every single year, rather than every four years.
The second Tuesday of November holds grave significance for not solely presidential elections, but for all elections – local and national.
Presidential elections are crucial for federal policies and the national agenda. Honing in, the local elections matter too – setting the policies and agenda that have more pull to affect the community’s day-to-day lives.
It’s not a matter of whether local or national elections are more important. It’s about relevancy. Local elections serve more relevance to us as students, as the power of our vote can change the policies within the Lehigh Valley. It’s an act of service to improve the community where we live.
By going to college in Bethlehem, we aren’t vacationing here. We are members of the community, voting in an essential election to decide the trajectory of where we live through mayors, council members and many more positions.
As mentioned, Northampton is a divided county; our own community is deeply polarized, and the outcome of such elections is almost always ambiguous. We, as students, were placed into a community where our vote matters. We have the pull in this battle with polarization, where the individual outcomes could come down to a single vote.
With the paramount relevance of local elections and the hefty weight of our votes as community members, we must do our part in exercising our vote.
Lehigh has called off all classes on Nov. 2 in an attempt to encourage civic engagement and voting participation.
Although we did not have Election Day off last year, the campus was still active in exercising their vote, with most classes resuming as normal.
Now with the entire day off, the opportunity to do the same thing awaits us. Voting polls are open at the edge of campus, at Broughal Middle School and the Banana Factory.
Voting in elections is now more accessible than ever for us as students. With that, we must do our community and ourselves justice and engage with our powerful vote.
Take advantage of this opportunity while you can. It’s our job to help set the agenda for our community.
In the end, these local elections matter just as much as presidential elections.