This Monday – Oct. 24 – is the last day to register to vote before the Nov. 8 election.
The election is the culmination of two years of a seemingly endless presidential campaign. Some people have decided not to vote because they aren’t fans of either of the two major-party candidates running for president.
But voting is important even if you don’t vote for president.
“Virtually every issue or candidate on the ballot affects students in some way or another. In a symbolic way, these are decisions about what their future will look like,” said Dr. Jeffrey Cummins, a political science professor at Fresno State who specializes in California politics. “If young people don’t vote, then their parents and grandparents are the ones that are going to decide what the future looks like for young voters even though the parents and grandparents won’t be in that future eventually. Young voters need to take the reins of their future.”
It’s true that the unfavorability of Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton are at record highs.
But if helping decide the next four years of American life isn’t enough to get voters registered and to the voting booths, remember – there are several other things on the ballot that warrant consideration, and young people should take note.
“Right now, older people vote more frequently than younger people. So politicians only really worry about keeping older voters happy,” said Dr. Thomas Holyoke, a political science professor who specializes in American politics. “If younger voters want to be taken seriously, you must give politicians a very personal reason to care – like keeping their job.”
And it isn’t just about who’s going to be in the White House.
“More importantly, votes on ballot propositions and votes for offices like Fresno City Council tend to be low-turnout. So single votes make a bigger difference,” Holyoke said. “More importantly, I think, voting makes a person more invested in the smooth functioning of our democratic system. You become a stakeholder in society.”
Dr. Lisa Bryant, a political science professor who specializes in voter behavior, campaigns and elections, said there are a lot of important issues on the ballot besides the president, and there are likely some things that everyone has an opinion about.
In local races, Mayor Ashley Swearengin is termed out, and two candidates are vying for Fresno’s top spot. Neither is a stranger to Fresno government.
Fresno City Councilman Lee Brand and Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea are going head-to-head to run the city.
“For students who live in the city of Fresno, there is a very close, competitive mayor’s race,” Bryant said. “The mayor can directly influence the direction of the city in terms of attracting new business, job growth, handling issues such as homelessness and fair housing, and the development and protection of open spaces.”
Aside from the presidential race, there are 17 statewide propositions and four local measures on the ballot.
What’s up for grabs?
Proposition 62 would abolish the death penalty in California and commute sentences for all current death-row inmates, giving them life sentences. There’s Proposition 64, which would legalize recreational marijuana use by adults 21 and over.
Proposition 56 would add a $2 tax on packs of cigarettes; Proposition 57 would allow less-harsh sentences for nonviolent offenders; Proposition 60 would require porn stars to wear condoms while filming.
Several items on the ballot are student-related.
Proposition 55 would extend 2012’s Proposition 30 for 12 years. About 89 percent of revenue from the tax increase would go toward K-12 schools and 11 percent to state community colleges. An additional $2 billion would be allocated in certain years to Medi-Cal and other health programs.
Measure X is a local $225 million bond for Fresno Unified School District. The bond aims at funding local schools on needs including: improving classrooms, career technical facilities, science labs, and technology; repairing deteriorating bathrooms, plumbing, air conditioning and wiring; removing asbestos and lead hazards; upgrading security cameras, lighting, fencing and fire safety; repairing, building, and acquiring facilities and equipment.
Proposition 51 is for $9 billion in statewide bonds for new construction and modernization of K-12 public school facilities; charter schools and vocational education facilities; and California community colleges facilities.
Ishaq Ali is in the Fresno State student government, Associated Students, Inc., as the senator for the College of Social Sciences. He said this election is a chance to prove Millennial voices do matter.
“For the first time in history, the Millennial generation – our generation – has surpassed Baby Boomers in population size. If young people make the effort to educate themselves and vote, we have the opportunity to make real change at the local, state and national levels,” Ali said.
The answer isn’t to sit out the election in protest, but to voice approval or disapproval with votes.
“People are disillusioned by our leaders because they do not believe they represent us. Therefore, they do not vote, creating a vicious cycle that feeds their distrust in government,” Ali said. “In theory, if every eligible voter voted, our government will more accurately reflect the electorate and people’s trust in government would be redeemed.”
Even though many young people feel that their voices go unheard, or that the government doesn’t represent them, or they’re mad that Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders to claim the nomination, Ali said nothing will change if young people don’t participate.
“I understand people’s disillusionment with this presidential election, but local and state elections are the real driving force of our democracy,” Ali said. “If you want to see real change in Fresno and California, educate yourselves on the propositions and vote on those at the very least.”
Students who wish to vote in the election have to register by Oct. 24. Registration can be done online at www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voter-registration. If you want to check your registration status, go to https://voterlookup.co.fresno.ca.us.