Vote your ass off—while you still can


A “Vote Here” sign outside of the Maxwell Elementary Voting location. Voters came out early in the morning to vote in the midterm elections on Tuesday, Nov. 6, at the Maxwell Elementary Voting location in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Samuel Krzystowczyk

Samuel Krzystowczyk is an enthusiastic voter and college student attending the University of Kentucky.

Ashley is a freshman of voting age at the University of Kentucky. On Nov. 5, 2019, she sent out a good-willed PSA to her fellow students on Snapchat. The message read, “if you need a ride today to vote in louisville hmu” (For those less experienced with the latest lingo, “hmu” equates literally to “hit me up,” or more contextually, “let me know”).

It was the day of the Kentucky gubernatorial election. This message of voter carpooling represents the deep-seated urgency college students like us feel concerning our participation in federal and state elections. Ashley represents a new form of powerful social media interaction in coordination with civil responsibility.

The political activity of American students is rising. We can now begin to play a part in the vital changes necessary to safeguard our future. Coming of age during an era of unrest and activism in response to our rapidly evolving global climate, college students are equipped with revolutionary means of informational access. In the face of global warming, nationalism, and a myriad of other threats, young Americans are no longer taking their rights for granted.

Do not doubt our potential. To those who are apolitical, get involved. To those who are inactive, get registered. 

Particularly in the South, minority and student voters are facing infringements that appropriate even more control to those already in power. With finite resources and niche state legislation, the fight is limited. Therefore, we must take action for our voices to be heard.

College-aged voters retain immense potential power as a voting bloc; however, we traditionally underperform in elections when compared to older Americans. In 2014, just 14 percent of eligible college voters participated in the midterms, whereas 56 percent of voters over 60 years old showed up at the polls.

However, this may be changing. The true excitement lies in the most recent federal elections. In the 2018 midterms, youth turnout was 40 percent, more than doubling the 2014 figure. I have seen this increased participation first hand. My fellow college students have demanded action by showing up to the polls, no matter the obstacle.

If you are a certified political news junkie like myself, you know that Kentucky’s new governor, Andy Beshear, won by the thinnest of margins that evening, partially due to overwhelming turnout in Louisville and Lexington. Later, the exiting governor, Matt Bevin, would blame his loss on unsubstantiated voter fraud and liberals “harvesting votes in urban communities…where people are densely populated on college campuses and public housing projects.”

This message conveys intense dismay at college voter participation. This sentiment extends throughout the majority of the southern United States, where more registration and polling requirements that affect college students have been recently implemented. Students cannot use their student IDs as valid forms of identification. Citizens cannot vote early without an excuse. Absentee ballot applications follow rigorous lists of expectations.

Despite the recent influx of youth voters, college students continue to underperform in elections, resulting in an unbalanced electorate favoring the septuagenarians currently running the show.

However, our age group has immense unrealized power, especially in the world of social media, where we can collectively share our intellectual expertise. Our passion stems from generations of apathetic conservation of the status quo. We continue to show that individual liberation can coexist with empathy in the political world.

For those who doubt us, I say to you, keep telling us we are too idealistic, too inexperienced, too immature to understand. Keep demeaning our political existence. Keep ignoring our warnings of an unstable future, because we are coming. We know you are scared of our intellect, our activism, our power.

For it is through our most sacred democratic tenet—our right to vote—that we will enshrine a brighter future.