Armando Sepulveda: Why should a college student care about voting? Let me tell you why. | #students | #parents

It was a cold November morning in 2016 when I walked into my neighbor’s garage. I was the third person in line ready to vote; my voter guide in hand, eager to make a decision that would impact millions across the country. In a scene fitting of any small town in America, my neighbor, who had opened up their garage for the election, had also baked cookies to give to voters. In the pre-COVID-19 era, this was a wonderful sight, and something that would go well with my morning coffee as I walked to the trolley I commuted on every morning to San Diego State University. I had just turned 18 that summer, and, for me, 2016 marked the first of many years I would fight for equity and systemic change in government.

The 2016 election left many students disenchanted with our political process and, like many, I found myself at a crossroads with my calling in college. On one side lay a path towards advocacy and civic responsibility, motivating other students to vote and get involved in the process. On the other side, I could instead disengage, grovel in the feeling of political disappointment, and focus on other academic pursuits outside of political science. As you can guess, since I am writing this, I chose option one.

So began the work of figuring out why it is important to not only vote, but to advocate, to engage and to change the system we find ourselves in. From that point on my primary mission was to get students to “Rock the Vote.” I started to work on SDSU’s Associated Students’ Rock the Vote campaign, which exists to motivate college students every year to get civically engaged, informed and eager to cast their vote in every election. Eventually I became the vice president of external relations this year and was given the honor of chairing the Rock the Vote campaign.

COVID-19 really made civic engagement difficult, but with an exceptional Rock the Vote student leadership team, we managed to break down what issues matter to college students the most and figure out ways to engage students on why they should pay attention to the people running for office.

Candidates always count on highly caffeinated college students to be a cornerstone of their volunteer base, but never seem to fully deliver on the promises they make in recruiting these same students. Many college students often ask why it is important to know who the candidates are and why getting them elected matters. The reason is because the minute we turn 18, we earn the right to have a say in who represents us and have them fight for the issues we care about.

The electorate has for many years been dominated by Baby Boomers and their priorities. Because of this, candidates often hold the values and fight for the issues that Baby Boomers promote, which has caused many of the issues Millennials and members of Generation Z find themselves facing. Stagnant wages, an unaffordable housing market, an economy not built for the working class and environmental degradation created over generations show that we are worse off than the generations before us.

Many college students are angry, frustrated and motivated to push back against the many injustices we see, and have pursued multiple forms of advocacy that are all impactful. Boycotting corporations that are unethical, working for nonprofit organizations that right systemic wrongs and organizing marches for women’s rights are all parts of civic engagement. We should organize, peacefully protest and boycott when there is an injustice.

Why should a college student care about voting? This election, we will renew our faith in government. We will elect candidates to serve the needs of our generation, and ensure that they are not beholden to anyone other than their constituents and the American people, not political parties or corporations. These are lofty goals, better broken down in “Hamilton” than in an op-ed, but we can work to break some of these ideas down together.

If you care about our nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, vote. If you care about how much the state Legislature funds the California State University, University of California and community college systems, vote. If you care about how much money City Hall spends on parks versus the Police Department, vote. If you care about whether a school district gets a new counselor or a new security guard, vote. In short, we all have a reason to vote, and this election there is no excuse not to. Organize, rally and vote, because together we will Rock the Vote.

Sepulveda is a fifth-year political science student at SDSU who serves as Associated Students’ vice president of external relations and is leading this year’s Rock the Vote initiative. He lives in Imperial Beach.

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