Laziness Is Never an Excuse

Last year, I voted for the
first time. I can confidently say that
it was the most exciting milestone I have experienced in all my 20 years. Reading the Torah at my bat mitzvah? I had memorized and rehearsed
that stuff for months. Graduating from
high school? I was more worried about
sweating through my nice dress than receiving my diploma. Getting my driver’s license? That brief moment of excitement was replaced
with the still-present fear I’d someday get into a car accident. But when I opened my absentee ballot, I felt
like a real adult. And I got to vote on
so many important things—not just president, congressperson, and senator, but
also issues of vital funding, like Proposition 30, which raised taxes to pay
for education across California. I even got to vote on outlandish-sounding
issues such as Measure B, which requires pornographic actors in Los Angeles County to wear
condoms while filming. And though it
didn’t pass, I was proud to have voted yes on Proposition 34, which would have
repealed the death penalty in this state.

This year, my absentee
ballot looked very different. It
contained only one item: the race for the Claremont School Board. But I voted, and I was proud to do so. I can’t say the same for most of my friends. 

Historically, few people
vote in off-year elections. In New York
City, where voters had their chance to elect the city’s first post-Bloomberg-era
mayor, voter turnout was a record low of 24 percent. This trend holds true here at the Claremont Colleges—I can count on one
hand the number of friends who told me they voted this year. But I need two to count the number who
responded with, “There was an election day this year?”

Many students felt it wasn’t
necessary to vote because they were registered here in Claremont, where the
only issue on the ballot was a school board race. This is, in my opinion, a narrow-minded and
selfish point of view. My reasons for voting this year are the same as The New York
best-selling author and Internet vlogger John Green’s reasons for paying
taxes for public schools. As he once said, “I like to pay taxes for schools
even though I don’t personally have a kid in school: I don’t like living in a country with a bunch
of stupid people.” Even small races, such as those for school boards, can greatly
influence hundreds if not thousands of people, like the schoolchildren here in

Voting is your civic
duty—it’s your constitutionally-protected way of helping to fix your country
the way you want it to be fixed, and it takes a matter of minutes. To those of you who claim that you were too
busy to fill out an absentee ballot or stop by the voting booths in Edmunds Ballroom, I counter that if you had time to get a muffin at the Coop that
morning, you had time to exercise your right to democracy. 

This year, the Supreme Court
voted to gut the Voting Rights Act, and in response many states have begun to
enact voter identification laws. These laws are often strategic moves devised by
Republicans to keep groups who tend to vote Democrat, such as racial
minorities, the elderly, the poor, and students like ourselves, away from the
polls. There are so many people in this country who won’t get to vote because
the Supreme Court allowed states to stop them from doing so. Are you going to let your busy schedule stand
in your way?

To those of you who say that
voting is too complicated: It’s really not. Especially when the only thing to vote on is a school board race. And to the bizarre few of you who say that
not voting is your way of protesting the system, I bet you can find better ways
to stick it to the man.

This November, there were only
three high-profile elections: the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia,
and the mayoral race in New York City. Many of the students I talked to who didn’t vote said that because they
weren’t registered in any of these areas, it didn’t matter whether they voted
or not. But if you thought there was
nothing of consequence to vote on this November, think again. Though 2013 wasn’t a big election year, there
were still plenty of significant local issues on ballots throughout the

In the city of Broomfield,
Colo. a moratorium on fracking, a controversial and environmentally hazardous
method of shale gas extraction, failed by only 13 votes, a margin so razor-thin
it triggered an automatic recount. Opponents of fracking told the local paper that they had been outspent 25
to one. A prime example of why state and
local elections can still hold consequence for the entire nation, this divisive
debate is a harbinger of fracking clashes to come.

And this week, President
Obama announced his support for the Fair Minimum Wage Act,
which, if passed, will raise the federal minimum wage to at least $10—a
move that would help reduce income inequality on a national level. His decision was likely bolstered by last
week’s results in New Jersey, where despite
re-electing a Republican governor voters also decided to raise the minimum wage
by $1 to $8.25.

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