Opinion | College students need to educate themselves before voting

For our democracy to function, we cannot just vote based on party affiliation — we must ensure that we are voting for candidates that best represent our interests.


Tate Hildyard

A Johnson County precinct indicator is seen outside The University of Iowa Visual Arts building on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Counties all across Iowa along with eight other states are participating in the 2020 primary elections.

Hannah Pinski, Opinions Columnist

Iowa students: we have an important role in our democratic society this November. Only 48.3 percent of us who were eligible actually participated in voting in the Presidential Election in 2016. Now, one-in-ten voters are expected to be between the ages of 18 and 23, an outsized voting bloc in the electorate — if we vote.

I cannot stress enough the importance of exercising your right to vote this Nov. 3. This isn’t a discussion for your chemistry lecture that you can just blow off. We all have a responsibility as citizens to be an active participant in our democracy, and voting is the way that we can express our opinion for the American government.

However, it is not only important that you choose to vote, but also that you take the time to ensure you are voting responsibly. When you choose to vote, you can’t just “wing it” like the last midterm you forgot to study for.

Before filling out that ballot, you need to know beforehand who you are deciding to vote for. You can’t receive the ballot and just choose a candidate because “that’s who you felt like choosing on that particular day.” That kind of mentality is unacceptable and hurts our democracy.

In order to do vote responsibility, students need to educate themselves on the candidates. There are thousands of resources for college students. For example, candidates’ websites outline their views and policies on political issues from COVID-19 to climate change.

Looking for an overview for both presidential and Iowa candidates? How to vote? The Daily Iowan has created a Voter Guide with information and outlines on each candidate for national and state office, including a guide on how to vote in both English and Spanish. An early voting location will be set up at the IMU Oct. 19-23 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. — easy for students to access. Hawk the Vote, a student group that formed ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, has also curated a set of tools for students to access, and contributing to the University of Iowa leading the nation in ease of voting for students. The Johnson County Auditor’s Office offers drive-up voting until the election.

However, it’s not only about looking at future policies. We must also research the candidates’ history to evaluate whether they can follow through with these policies. Resources for this can be anything such as past news reports, fact checks that report on the accuracy of statements made by politicians, and Vote Smart, which provides information such as a candidate’s voting records and campaign finances.

I’ve been hearing too much of “I am going to vote for X because they are Republican/Democrat, and I identify myself as a conservative/liberal.”

It’s not enough to vote for a candidate based just off of the fact that they are the choice for the political party you identify with. You are not just necessarily voting for the Republican or Democrat.

When you fill out a ballot, you are choosing a name. You are choosing a person with a slate of accomplishments and policy proposals that may or may not align with your beliefs. Therefore, it’s not just about knowing what political party you identify with and skipping the research.

As college students, there’s no doubt we lead busy lives, but we must make room to educate ourselves and exercise our right to vote. This is not the reading quiz for rhetoric where you can skim over the material.

We, as the future generation of leaders, need to do our part in upholding our democratic society. The way we’re going to do that is not only by voting, but by educating ourselves so we are able to select our best hope for America.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.