With only days left until Election Day, we are not afraid to inundate your social media and our channels with voting PSAs. Whether you are a freshman who can now vote for the first time, a youth voter with some experience or an experienced alum who keeps up with our coverage, we believe it is our duty to mobilize voters into taking action. Voting is indeed a civic duty that must be taken seriously, especially in an election dubbed as “the most consequential in American history.”
Voting is important, regardless of which state you vote in, but those voting in Wisconsin are even more likely to be drivers of change this season. In 2016, only 22,748 votes decided the Wisconsin election, yet 281,000 young people did not vote. This election, Tufts University’s Centre for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) considers Wisconsin to be the state where the youth vote is most significant when considering the Presidential race.
While discussions have likely taken place among friends and family about some of the important issues that will be affected by the results of this election, the emphasis tends to be on personal issues. It is vital that voters consider healthcare, education, the COVID-19 response, civil rights and the vast issues that impact them and their loved ones in casting their ballot. However, there is more to this election than just the lives of voters themselves.
The results of Nov. 3 will be consequential to the millions of people in the United States who do not have the power to be heard through the polls. From DACA recipients to immigrants, international students to visiting professors on our campus and the overflowing population of incarcerated people, millions count on the decision that will be made by voters like you.
To those not convinced that their vote carries enough weight, or to those that are not compelled to act this election day, we urge you: Vote for those who cannot — their lives, that are equally as intrinsic and dignified as your own, deserve nothing less.
There have long been issues related to immigration and overpopulation of our prisons in the United States; however, the policies enacted by the Trump Administration in the past few years have dramatically impacted these groups, exacerbating existing issues. From the attempts to rescind DACA for DREAMers and creating challenges for international students during the COVID-19 pandemic, to the discriminatory and xenophobic language used by the President and his supporters alike against marginalized groups, those who do not have the ability to vote have been uniquely affected by the actions of those in power.
The current administration has been ruthless in the treatment of non-citizens. There have been escalated attacks on asylum seekers, who travel perilously just to be afforded the opportunity of a better life without the constant fear of death. This administration has further narrowed the parameters for refugees to be granted asylum and has treated them with subhuman dignity. By separating children from their parents at the border, turning a blind eye to threats like domestic and gang violence and threatening to end asylum on the grounds of gender — just a few of the proposals in place or on the table — this administration is responsible for egregious policies that violate human rights.
While some may present vile arguments attacking immigrants as a burden to society and instead posit that the “best and brightest” be welcomed in, or that they “wait in line” the right way, the picture isn’t any prettier for those who do things that way. Naturalization backlogs owing to “extreme vetting” of applicants have kept prospective citizens disenfranchised and in a state of limbo, while Green Card backlogs for certain nationalities extend up to 195 years. Sweeping changes proposed to alter the definition of “speciality occupations” for non-immigrant workers, to reinforce labor certifications and to overhaul the H1-B program betray the idea of attracting skilled workers, while proposed changes to F-1 visas — issued to international students on merit — further inhibit their academic and post-academic opportunities to better the communities they spend years studying in.
To this administration, serving in the military isn’t enough to be considered American either. Non-citizen veterans have historically received either expedited citizenship, or had requirements waived, depending on their deployment. However, this administration has made it harder for immigrants to enlist in the military or obtain the promised citizenship. Some veterans who have risked their lives for America are still being deported without consideration of their service.
Even a large proportion of American citizens have been disenfranchised from voting. As of 2020, over five million people do not have the ability to vote due to a felony conviction, constituting nearly 2.3 percent of the voting eligible population. This disproportionately impacts African Americans, as one in 16 Black individuals of voting age is disenfranchised — a rate 3.7 times greater than that of non-Black people in this country.
These various groups who have lived in the United States for years — many their entire lives — and realize this country to be their home, do not have the power to voice their opinions on what happens to themselves and their families — your vote will decide, as their rights and livelihoods hang in the balance.
As we stand at a critical juncture, both politically and socially, it is your moral duty to participate. This election will impact countless lives, beyond just those immediately around you. It is vital that you take into consideration the wellbeing of our communities near and far — from the Black and Brown folx we share the streets of Madison with, to the immigrants at our borders hundreds of miles away.
Amid a national reckoning of racial justice, a deadly and raging pandemic that has cost over 225,000 lives and an extraordinary environmental crisis, the state of our democracy is on the line this November. Voting is not just a benefit of being a citizen, it is an essential responsibility as a member of this society. As a right that has been fought to be granted and protected, voting in this election — and for Joe Biden — means to protect the lives of unrepresented groups from further harm and to save the soul of this nation.
Early in-person registration ends today, Oct. 30. Early in-person voting ends this Sunday, Nov. 1. Remember to drop off your absentee ballot as soon as possible to your municipal clerk’s office. You can also register and vote in-person at your local polling place on Election Day, Nov. 3, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Visit iwillvote.com/wi for more information.