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Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

The day is finally here. The 2020 presidential election saw candidates announcing their candidacy as early as 2017, and its culmination is now arriving. As we enter Election Day, many may still be wondering why it’s important that they cast their ballot.  It may seem like one vote doesn’t matter among the tens of millions that will be cast across the country, but it does. From a tied 2017 Virginia House of Delegates race that was decided by drawing a name out of a bowl to the 2000 presidential election in Florida being decided by just 537 votes, do not discount the importance of casting your ballot. Penn students must vote.

It is of critical importance that young people vote. Election after election, young people turn out at lower rates than their older counterparts. This presents a major problem for representative democracy. Elected officials are supposed to represent everyone, but they are only truly accountable to those that vote. When younger people vote at lower rates, politicians don’t have to pay as much attention to the needs of young people, and thus give up their voice in government. 

Being in the swing state of Pennsylvania only strengthens the importance of the youth vote. Pennsylvania youth voters also have the fourth highest impact of any state’s youth voters on the presidential election, and Penn students must capitalize on that opportunity. Although we recognize that not everyone is living in Philadelphia this semester, those who are eligible to vote in Pennsylvania have the opportunity to vote in a state that was decided by less than 1 percent in the 2016 presidential election.

2020 is best known as a presidential election year, but there are also numerous other races on the ballot of equal importance. From ballot propositions to statewide offices to members of Congress and local officials, there are so many different races on which you can have an impact by casting your vote. Even though the presidential race receives more attention, your local elected officials have a greater effect on your community. Elections for local positions also have fewer voters, making your voice more impactful. Make sure to educate yourself on all races and propositions on your ballot and look up your sample ballot here.

20 states allow voters to register and vote all at once on Election Day, so if you live in one of those states and haven’t yet registered to vote, there’s still time. If you missed the voter registration deadline in your state or are an international student, remind as many people as possible to vote. Students voting in Pennsylvania who have already requested a mail-in ballot still have time to turn theirs in, but it must be postmarked by November 3rd. Students currently in Philadelphia who are voting in person can check their polling place by clicking here. If you have any questions, please visit our website or email us at pennvotes@upenn.edu

You have the opportunity to make an impact on your community and your country. An election is a collection of voices coming together to make decisions about the future. Your vote counts just as much as anyone else’s, and the only time your voice is not equal to others is when you don’t let it be heard. That’s why we vote.

HARRISON FEINMAN is a College junior from Los Angeles, CA studying politics, legal studies, and history. He is the Co-Director of Penn Leads the Vote. His email address is hfeinman@sas.upenn.edu.

EVA GONZALEZ is a College junior from Ardmore, PA studying political science and Hispanic studies. She is the Co-Director of Penn Leads the Vote. Her email address is evagonz@sas.upenn.edu

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