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College students can and should change the tide of the election.

With the upcoming presidential election Nov. 3, the importance for student voters increases. The lack of college voters is alarming, as only 48% voted in 2016. As a proud citizen of the U.S., I'm appalled at the lack of responsibility and concern college students have, especially when our daily lives are affected by COVID-19. No matter their political ideology, college students need to realize their civic responsibility and how they can play a part in having a voice in our nation.

It’s a common belief that a single vote doesn’t matter. However, after the shocking victory of Donald Trump, non-voters regret not voting, according to The Guardian. Even Trump himself began to accept that he lost before the results were revealed. Out of eligible voters, Hillary Clinton received 28.43%, Trump earned 27.20% and “Did Not Vote” won out with 44.37%. 

In fact, the 2016 election was the fifth election where the winner of the popular vote lost. Virginia was one of the states where “Did Not Vote” beat the votes for the candidates. 

As young people, being involved as U.S. citizens is a privilege we’re given. We’re lucky to live in a country that permits us to use our voices and express our concerns. Yet, very few young Americans vote, as fewer than one in five cast their ballots. Millennials and Gen Z tend to lean toward the left, making their votes in the 2020 election key to bringing a Democrat into office. 

COVID-19 opens up more barriers for student voters. Notre Dame, for example, closed the day before the election, leaving students registered on campus having to change their plans. Many students registering similarly don’t know if they’ll be on campus or at home on Nov. 3. In a poll conducted by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, over half of college students planned to vote by mail.

However, Trump shared his worries about voting fraud after claiming that military ballots that had his vote were found in the trash, according to AP News. Investigators later found the military ballots, seven of the nine voting for Trump. Trump also claimed that mailmen were selling the ballots, which has been proven false. For college students planning on voting republican, these claims may be unsettling if they use mail-in ballots.

For JMU students, the university has thoroughly taken part in helping to increase voter turnout. Dukes Vote encourages students to be civically engaged and provides resources and answers regarding the election. Dukes Vote also holds Debate Watch Parties, allowing students to discuss in real time. 

Understanding one’s political stance is crucial to increase college student voters. Many students already know what they identify as, but I encourage them to research policies and issues that matter to them. 

Before voting for the 2020 election, research each candidate carefully and use legitimate resources. Both Joe Biden and Donald Trump have websites that explain what actions they’ll take if elected. This election, I hope to see a higher turnout of college students and for them to become more politically engaged. As the next generation of Americans, our votes can bring changes that’ll help grow our country.

Julia Cheng is a freshman media arts and design major. Contact Julia at chengjm@dukes.jmu.edu.