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A mail-in ballot. Credit: Nicholas Fernandez

Every vote counts. This is a phrase you see everywhere during election season in America. In this participatory democracy, the phrase proves to be true. Every vote really does count. However, not every vote counts the same.

The location in which your vote is cast determines the weight of that vote. As a Californian, I am proud to vote in both local and national elections. Nevertheless, I know that no matter whose name I select on the ballot, California will remain a blue state. 

Obviously, in local elections, singular votes have more significance. Despite a state being overall red or blue, various counties can be strongly in favor of the opposing party. Even then, however, if you’re in a so-called politically “safe state,” odds are that regardless of your vote or the strength of an outlying county, the state will stay positively red or blue. For example, it’s no surprise that even with so much backlash and apparent animosity toward him, as evidenced by the recent recall efforts, Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, retains strong support as California’s governor. 

I am not making this point to discourage anyone from voting. Indeed, it is through the election process that we can exercise our rights to participate in democracy. Voting provides the vehicle for us to create the America we want to live in, no matter which state we reside in. 

Nevertheless, I want to emphasize the advantages of using your vote strategically. Voting, whether in local or general elections, in a swing state naturally carries more weight. In my case, my Democratic vote means more in Pennsylvania than in California. 

While California has been a blue state for most of its history, Pennsylvania has long been considered a battleground state. The Keystone State, more so than other states, is home to many varying ethnicities, political influences, and polarizing forces. Its great diversity is what makes it a “microcosm of the country,” with entrenched voters on either side of the spectrum within its borders. 

Home to a very diverse population, the City of Philadelphia is the Democratic stronghold of the state. Its demographics include over 500,000 immigrants, a Black or African American population of 41.36%, and a median age of 35.2. These Philadelphian demographics include roughly 342,994 college students

As members of this demographic, we, Penn students, must make our impact in Pennsylvania elections. We have a social responsibility to vote in local elections as part of Philadelphia’s civic foundation. After all, we are members of this community and the local laws apply to us just as they do any other Philadelphian.

Campus organization Penn Leads the Vote emphasizes that colleges and universities have both an opportunity and a responsibility to support students’ democratic development and civic participation, which can be done easily through voting. It’s vital that as university students in Philadelphia, we do our part to lead the vote. 

Some may argue that as university students, we aren’t established members of the Pennsylvania community and don’t face the local issues impacting long-term residents. However, we live in our college town for 10 months of the year, and live here for at least four years of our adult lives. The average American family moves once every four years, making us just as worthy and eligible to vote in this precinct. 

More than just being de facto members of the community through the pursuit of our studies here, we make an impact by being gainfully employed, bolstering the local economy, and creating job opportunities for others in the area. Among other things, we dine at local restaurants in University and Center cities, volunteer within the local communities in West Philadelphia, support the food trucks on Spruce Street, and create the need for businesses like Penn Campus Hair, Skin & Nail Salon.

Penn students, along with those at Drexel, Temple, etc., pay sales and gasoline taxes while earning wages in accordance with Pennsylvania regulations. Though most of us likely haven't been living in Philadelphia for more than our college years, we are directly affected by the Pennsylvania laws, which in turn gives us the right to challenge them. 

For example, with Roe v. Wade being overturned and the decision on abortion rights being left up to the states, it's our civic duty to cast our pro-choice vote in Pennsylvania. Patients of college age are one of the largest demographics in United States abortion patients, making the overturning of Roe v. Wade a threat to every person capable of being pregnant in Pennsylvania. If the state chooses to make abortion illegal, Penn students and other college students in Philadelphia will be terribly impacted. Being a swing state, Pennsylvania has a high risk of banning abortion in comparison to California or New York.

Now more than ever, it is imperative that we exercise our civil rights and participate in elections in Pennsylvania. For those of you from California, New York, and other safe states, it's your responsibility to register to vote in Pennsylvania instead of your hometown to make more of an impact on the community you now live in. 

Taxes, minimum wage, abortion rights, and more all impact us as students in University City. No matter what anyone might try to convince us, we are members of the Philadelphia and greater Pennsylvanian communities, and are key components and contributors to the civic fabric here. 

So, those of you coming from safe states, feel your power! We can, and should, swing the state. 

SOSE HOVANNISIAN is a College first year studying history from Los Angeles. Her email is