Throughout my childhood, I remember waiting in long lines in the cold with my parents at my local middle school on Election Day. My parents are immigrants; my dad is from El Salvador, and my mom is from the Ukraine. The right to vote wasn’t really something that was represented well in either of their countries. So when they became U.S. citizens, being able to vote was really important to them. For them, it was meaningful to be able to vote every Election Day and to know that every vote counted.
And because they were so excited about voting in elections, I always got excited to watch them go into the voting booth. That was part of the reason that I applied to be an intern for the TerpsVote coalition, a non-partisan coalition dedicated to providing information and resources to student voters at this university.
Crucial to vote
I know that, as college students swept up in classes, midterms, clubs and internships, it can often be hard for us to connect with the world off campus. Especially on a campus as large as ours, with a student population of close to 40,000, it can be hard to remember that there are larger structures of government beyond our professors, deans and university administrators.
That disconnect is often evident in student voting rates. According to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSELVE) from the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University, which surveyed 1,110 institutions, only 18 percent of students voted in the 2014 midterm elections. At the University of Maryland, our voting rate was only marginally higher: 19 percent of Terps voted in those midterms.
But having interned for TerpsVote since early summer, I’ve realized just how crucial it is to vote in midterm elections. While the midterms usually seem less climactic than presidential elections, their consequences can be even bigger than the presidential elections. Elements of our daily lives—like how good the roads are around College Park, what minimum wage we get paid in our part-time jobs and how much education funding is coming to our university (and what that might mean for resources on campus and even our tuition!) are determined by those we vote for in midterm elections… like the one coming up tomorrow, Nov. 6.
I’ve spent the past few months collecting election data for all 50 states, interacting with student voters and working with faculty around campus to engage potential student voters. I’ve done so many presentations to classes on campus, making sure that students are registered to vote. (A lot of people from Maryland assume they’re registered because they have their driver’s license, and Maryland has Motor Voter laws in place. But it’s a good idea to doublecheck.) It’s been really rewarding to see other students so motivated and to get them excited about voting.
My first vote
Finally, on Oct. 27, I drove to an early voting center in Montgomery County, Md., to vote for the first time. After years of excitedly accompanying my parents to their voting booths, I was finally able to enter my own! My family kept laughing at me, because I was so excited about casting my first vote.
It was a great experience. It only took me about 10 minutes to vote. And when the people volunteering at the polling place found out I was voting for the first time, they were so excited that they gave me something like six “I voted” stickers after I was done!
I implore you to join me and use your power to vote on Nov. 6. There’s nothing more empowering than using your student voice to vote for leaders whose decisions impact your daily life and your future. Join me and the thousands of students that have already pledged to vote across the country. Help our coalition raise student voter rates on our campus and across the country.
For more information about voting, visit go.umd.edu/terpsvote.
About the author:
Alexandra Marquez is a journalism and anthropology double major and a Media, Self and Society Scholars student. She has interned for the TerpsVote Coalition since June, has freelanced for several publications on campus, and is a Maryland Images campus tour guide. Alexandra loves politics and good journalism, so if you ever see her when she's working at the Cumberland Hall front desk, feel free to strike up a conversation!