Why People Vote

Dr. Christopher Stout, Associate Professor and Political Science Ecampus Coordinator, weighs in on the question, why do we vote?

Editor's Note: This story is a part of the 2020 Elections Issue. The Baro has put together this issue to inform the Oregon State University and greater Corvallis, Ore. communities about the 2020 Elections. This issue will dispel voting myths and include information on local elections, voting methods and tips, candidate profiles, and more.

Students and faculty in the Oregon State University community share their ideas and thoughts of the reasons why they vote and how it is important for others to as well, especially during this upcoming election.

Various members of the university reflect on why they personally believe in the need to vote. These individuals range in different age groups and in voting experience, whether it being their first time participating in an election or if they have voted multiple times in the past.

Exploratory Studies undergraduate student, Olivia McFarlane, said via email that she does vote but it is her first time doing so in a presidential election. She said she plans to vote in any elections happening in her city in order for her voice to be heard.

“I strongly believe in personal freedom and tend to favor candidates that claim to emulate these values,” McFarlane said. “I think examining what policies candidates put forward allows one the opportunity to think deeply about what they want for the future of this country. People should vote to better their communities and country.”

McFarlane believes that is it important to vote and because it serves as a way that one can learn more about themself and that these decisions made directly reflect an individual’s own values.

Engineering Education Ph.D. candidate, Andrea Haverkamp, said via email she has voted since she turned 18 and finds herself to be passionate about local and state elections because she believes that is where the greatest change and power of voting is. She has had opportunities to vote in different states that she has resided in such as Kansas, Oklahoma and Oregon.

“Voting is only a minor part of civic engagement and political life- despite what the political media industry publicizes,” Haverkamp said. “No single politician, and no current dominant party, will ultimately give us equality in the workplace and public life.”

Haverkamp expresses that although voting is not the most powerful tool, she does it because it is one of the many tactics for social change and activism.

The rise of social justice acts and movements regarding topics such as police brutality and climate change have ushered in a wave of young voters. A significant increase in turnout rate compared to previous years proves to be 63% of 18 to 29 year olds that have said they definitely plan to vote.

“Voting is just one minor component of what we should do to create a more just, peaceful and equitable world,” Haverkamp said.

OSU faculty share their thoughts behind their own reasoning to vote and why they believe others should as well, including Christopher Stout, a political science associate professor, who has voted since he was 18 both in local and federal races. He said he does not think he has missed an election and that he votes because it matters and that it is his responsibility.

“If there are enough people like myself who vote, that can change [the outcomes of] elections particularly towards the local level where a lot of decisions that affect my day-to-day life are made,” Stout said. “I feel like it’s my responsibility to vote; a lot of people before me have fought for the right and endured some really harsh treatment so that I can freely vote.”

Stout said that he believes young people should vote because policymakers tend to ignore this group and if they begin to vote more, politicians will start to pay more attention to that generation. He said that voting is important to make sure that certain issues are addressed.

“The more young people vote, the more likely politicians are going to feel pressured to address college debt, the more likely they are going to feel pressured to address policies around the environment,” Stout said. “If young people don’t vote, it’s only older people voting then there are fewer incentives for politicians to pay attention to the needs of young voters.”

President Trump’s plan for student loans, if re-elected, is to end the Public Service Loan Forgiveness and to instead give financial aid administrators more power in setting loan limits for their schools which can prevent students from overborrowing. 

Joe Biden’s plan for higher education if elected for president includes strengthening college as a reliable path for the middle class. This proposal will not limit returns and will not leave graduates with loads of debt they cannot afford.

Jayne Andersen, an academic advisor for the College of Business, votes in all presidential elections and midterm elections. She said via email she started voting in her early 20s and does it because she also believes that it is her responsibility.

“If there are ballot measures outside of this timeline and, or local issues, I try to vote on them as well,” Andersen said. “I vote because it’s my duty and obligation as a U.S. citizen and it’s my opportunity to share my voice and be included in the process.”

Andersen said she thinks others should vote for the same reason that she practices it, because it’s a responsibility and an opportunity to share our voices.

Voters that span across generations have shared why they vote and why they plan to participate in this election. Ballots have been distributed to homes by mail if registered and have to be returned by election day.

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