by Sofie Jacobs
Registering to vote in Michigan is worth the schlep. And I say this as a woman whose unwillingness to schlep has led her to completely miss the Pokémon GO craze.
I’m from Maryland, and while some counties in Maryland will have “Make America Great” posters on front yards, many more will not. Those signs ruin the grass and the landscaper just came last week. Those counties will vote for Hillary Clinton, and Maryland will vote to elect the Democratic nominee, just as it has in eight out of the last ten presidential elections. A Republican presidential candidate has not won my home state since the 1980s.
Maryland’s status as a blue state is in part due to its winner-take-all system, meaning that if even only 60 percent of the state voted for the Democratic nominee, and 40 percent voted for the Republican nominee, all 10 of Maryland’s electoral votes would still go to the Democratic nominee. Of the 270 electoral votes needed to elect the president, 100 percent of Maryland’s 10 votes go to the candidate who wins the plurality in the popular election. I could vote in Maryland, but it feels like my vote doesn’t make a difference. As a Democrat, I could sit out the election at home. And that sucks.
As a young, liberal woman, I am incredibly lucky to live in Maryland. I know that it is a privilege to vote, and I know that it is a privilege never to have felt uncomfortable or ostracized for my political beliefs. I know that these are privileges without my university’s Race & Ethnicity course requirement telling me so. But as this election season has progressed, I’ve started to feel uncomfortable with these privileges, and worry that I take them for granted. I was never ridiculed, jailed, or threatened for trying to voice my political opinion. When registering to vote, nobody has ever asked me for documentation that my socioeconomic status did not allow me to readily access. And no presidential nominee has ever suggested that my vote is proof of a corrupt political system.
I worry that I will send in my absentee ballot, Maryland will vote as it usually has and then I will be left wondering if my vote was even needed.
Politico suggests that there will only be 11 swing states legitimately affecting this election: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Nevada, New Hampshire, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. According to Rock the Vote, an online resource for students voting in political elections, “Students attending college in Michigan may register at their school address.”
That empty seat on the Supreme Court alone is a major reason why I feel lucky to be able to change my registration to Michigan. This year, more than ever, my vote needs to count.
“The power of a single appointment can change the court for more than a generation,” Lori Weinstein told me when we spoke by phone. She is the CEO of JWI, an advocacy organization that has launched Vote Like a Girl, a new initiative empowering young women to understand the importance of voting.
“[Voting] is the driver of the engine of citizenship,” Weinstein said. “We found that there were so many young women who would leave home and forget to sign up for an absentee ballot [at school], or they would vote back home and not know a lot about what they were voting for... since they were not voting in the communities where they were living.”
By voting in Michigan, students not only are able to make a difference in the outcome of the presidential race by voting in a swing state, but they are also able to vote on ballot initiatives that directly affect them and their school. Weinstein talked about how her daughters grew up in a historically blue state, but once they began attending school at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, they knew it was time to switch their registration. “They decided to vote where their vote counted,” Weinstein said. “Their vote didn’t count [at home] anymore. And [by registering to vote in Missouri], it enabled them to be much more involved in the election because they were addressing issues in their own community.”
As the election draws nearer, more and more students at Michigan have taken notice of their home state’s political patterns and begun to change their registrations. “Washington, my home state, is a historically blue state and does not need my vote to continue this trend...My vote carries more weight in a state with more uncertainty,” Kate Reinertson, a junior in Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy said.
But let me be clear— I’m not a political science major. I’m not in Ford. And I’m not trying to convince you to vote for the candidate I support. What I care about is that you vote in Michigan. If your home state is not a swing state, take the time and energy to change your registration so that you can be sure that your vote is making a difference.
Come Tuesday, November 8, you can find me at a voting poll. I'll be registered to vote in the great state of Michigan. And yes, I could vote in Maryland. But voting in Michigan will give me a much better chance of making sure my candidate gets elected. And that’s worth the schlep.
Sofie Jacobs is a junior at University of Michigan, where she is president of Chi Omega sorority. An English major and co-author of the Just Between Us journals (Chronicle Books), she hopes to pursue a career in publishing.