Presidential elections are not the only important ones

Katrina Meyer, News Editor

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Election season can be frustrating. During presidential election years, campaigns start a full year earlier. Attack ads seem to take over TV for months beforehand. In such a large country, individual votes might not feel important. Voters can get discouraged, especially during an election cycle as crazy as the 2016 presidential campaign. When neither candidate succeeds in appealing to large segments of the population and both candidates rely on attacking each other rather than focusing on policy, it can become easy to decide that one vote does not matter in a country of 350 million people. As easy as it is to disregard the necessity of voting, it is more important than ever to realize that every vote and every election matters.

There is not going to be another presidential election for three years, but that does not mean that we can take three years off. When the events that are happening in the news continue to be astounding, it is important to remember that changes start at the individual level.

The 2017 elections started to show that. The first openly transgender state lawmaker was elected in Virginia; the first openly transgender person of color was elected to city council in Minneapolis; New Jersey elected its first Sikh mayor; Seattle elected its first lesbian mayor; Provo, Utah elected its first female mayor; Charlotte, North Carolina elected its first female African American mayor; Decorah elected its first female mayor. These are just a few examples, but it took individual people who realized that their votes were important. People all over the United States showed that they were tired of the current political climate.

Making those changes can start by deciding to go vote. Amidst a news cycle that has been more depressing than encouraging as of late, waking up and seeing the results on November 8, 2017 was a breath of fresh air.

But it does not stop there. People must stay engaged and aware of politics all year. Our generation seems to get slammed all the time for disinterest in media and politics, but that is not the case. We might get discouraged when it feels like our voices are not heard, but we cannot back down.

We are the future leaders of this country, so we need to make sure that we have a fair say in what is going on in the meantime. That means regularly reading the news and staying informed. While that might not be the most fun task in the world, it is critically important. When people stay engaged and informed, they will see the importance of making their voices heard.

In our country, the easiest way to do that is to show up and vote on Election Day. It does not matter what race it is. The results of 2017 elections showed the country that if we do not like the decisions leaders make, we have the power to change that. We do not have to wait until 2020 to elect a new president. Changes on a smaller scale directly impact our lives, and they send a message about the prevailing opinion in the country to those in higher positions.

Election Day 2018 will include midterm elections for Congress. This is undoubtedly an important day. It is still 11 months out, but in the meantime we all need to stay interested and engaged. We need to hold the people we elect accountable for their decisions. Things that happen today will have consequences for us in the future. With that in mind, we all need to remember that every vote counts.

If we want to see change happen, we each have to make the decision to do our part. We have more power as individuals than we think, we just have to learn to use it.

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