For many young adults, this presidential election is the first time they’ll be voting. This is true not just on this campus, but across the nation as a whole. This fact also applies to me. Though I previously voted in primary elections, I have not voted in a presidential election.
Voting in a presidential election for the first time is a pretty daunting experience. It carries a lot of weight, and the results can impact this country and society for years to follow, long after the presidential term has ended. Many first-time voters may be experiencing uncertainty, especially considering the nature and divisiveness of the current political climate. To deal with these feelings of uncertainty and pressure and to have more confidence, I decided to try to educate myself before going to the polls. I learned that it’s not a matter of party affiliation, more so learning about the issues that are most important to you and have the biggest impact on your life. I felt that I needed to learn more about politics. Doing so helped me make better-informed decisions — during any election — as a voter.
I approached some experts on our campus to talk about the election process and how daunting it can all be.
Jean Harris, Ph.D., a professor of political science at Scranton, offered insight into the importance of voting and how it creates a better society when everyone participates. She told me how voting is the most common form of political participation and noted that those who vote decide to do so because there are benefits that come along with voting.
“[The benefits can be] a sense of self-esteem, a sense of making a difference or the pride of being a responsible citizen,” Dr. Harris said.
In response to the idea that a singular vote does not hold much weight in an election, Dr. Harris encouraged me (and others!) to still go out and cast their ballot, mostly because the electorate listens to the people.
“Elections have been won, and lost, by as few as one vote,” Dr. Harris said. “Your vote [could be] combined with those of others who voted [the same way] you did, [and then] elected officials have to pay attention.”
She also encouraged participation in the political process by staying informed, writing to elected officials and attending public meetings. She said that elected officials pay attention to these forms of participation.
“Write letters to your elected officials [and] the editors of your local paper,” Dr. Harris said, “Elected officials read [these letters] to see what the folks back home are thinking.”
So, what happens if the results aren’t what you had hoped for? Surely there will be some negative emotions that come with such an outcome, right? That’s what I was asking myself. Learning how to cope and handle these emotions, I thought, was important to the overall betterment of society. Continue reading