Opinion | Please vote on Tuesday

By Livia LaMarca, Senior Staff Columnist

If you’ve been on Pitt’s Oakland campus, you’ll likely remember the groups encouraging students to register to vote by dancing, yelling and getting rowdy at times. I have an explicit memory of sitting in my American Literature class on the first floor of the Cathedral, listening to two organizers yell at each other to see just how loud they can get. 

But just like their boisterousness was apparent, so is their absence.

The deadline to register to vote passed on Oct. 24, so Oakland’s streets are much quieter. However, the task of getting people to the polls is far from complete. So I feel I must help finish the job and publish one last plea to convince you to vote on Tuesday.

Just because someone is registered to vote doesn’t make them a likely voter. And for those that think registering to vote is a hassle, casting your vote is even more of an annoyance. During the 2016 presidential election, 87% of Pennsylvania’s eligible voting population registered to vote. That’s an incredibly high number and it would be super impressive if all those people went out to vote. However, only 70% of registered voters actually cast their vote. 

Tuesday’s election is a midterm election, which usually means lower voter turnout. During presidential elections, around 60% of the voting-age population votes, but during midterms it can be as low as a 40% turnout.

I could write multiple columns about how stringent rules and barriers prevent certain communities from voting. Instead, I want to focus on the individuals who choose not to vote simply because they’re apathetic to the cause or refrain as a means of protest against the candidates on the ballot.

When someone who has the means to vote chooses not to, they imply that they’re complicit in the current state of the country. It is a privilege to vote in the United States, as dozens of countries across the globe do not hold free and fair elections. Not showing up to the polls on Election Day — especially in a highly contested state like Pennsylvania — means you don’t care about laws and candidates that affect you, as well as the laws and candidates that affect other people. 

I’m not criticizing people who can’t afford to take off work or hire a babysitter in order to vote. I’m not even criticizing those who simply never received their mail-in and absentee ballots. These people, usually already discriminated against, often can’t vote because systematic inequalities work against them. If you are not burdened by the same challenges as these individuals, you have the opportunity and the responsibility to go and vote. The very candidates you vote for could make voting much easier and much more accessible, making it much easier for them to vote in future elections.

Here in Pennsylvania, there is too much at stake to ignore. I believe it’s almost impossible that nobody is affected by at least one of the topics debated over the last handful of months. The gubernatorial race between Doug Mastriano and Josh Shapiro will decide abortion rights, gun laws and education funding within the state. No matter your perspective on these hot topics, these issues affect people of all ages, races and ideologies. 

Looking at the federal level, the senatorial race between John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz also has high stakes. Pennsylvania is a large and important swing state, and whoever wins the senate seat could very well determine what party holds the majority in the Senate for the remaining two years of Joe Biden’s presidency. At the national level, issues such as minimum wage, the environment, legalization of marijuana and so much more are all highly discussed and debated in the national legislature.

Whether or not you’re interested in politics or understand the intricacies of the American government, every vote matters. All aspects of life, even the small ones, are determined by laws and politics. It is easy to push aside and ignore certain issues until it affects you explicitly. 

All I ask is if you have time Tuesday, please set aside some time to go vote. This election, as are all elections, is unbelievably important and much is at stake. 

Here’s where to find polling places on campus and who’s on the ballot

Livia LaMarca mostly writes about American political discourse and pop culture. Write to her at [email protected].