Opinion | Swing-state students will make the difference today

If you haven’t heard, it’s Election Day. For the past few weeks, groups ranging from grassroot coalitions to big-name corporations have flooded social media channels with ways to register to vote, check your polling place and cast absentee ballots. The message is clear: Your vote matters. 

But we can’t deny that some votes matter more.

Residents of swing states have an even greater role this election to make a difference. Eight states this year will have close elections, according to the 270 to Win election map. These swing states are Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas and Arizona. College students are also crucial voters in the upcoming election. According to a CNBC article, 71% of college students are planning on voting.

George Hawley, an associate professor of political science, said swing states hold even more importance this year. 

“The difference this year is that there are more states that we might see surprising developments in,” he said. “There are states that are usually considered pretty solidly in one camp or another, but this year they… appear to be up for grabs, which makes it in some ways a more interesting election.”

The election this year is more uncertain than ever because of these eight states. Hawley added that swing state voters “may feel like they have a greater sense of efficacy because there’s the expectation that the elections in their states will be close. So we may see an uptick in voter turnout in such states.”

College students must be a part of this uptick. 

For some of us, that meant casting our votes early. I’m from Wisconsin, which swung red in 2016 after a long history of voting blue. I live on campus, but I made sure to cast my absentee ballot where it mattered more. Clayton Connick, a sophomore majoring in news media, is going home to vote. He said that his friends – both from battleground states – have done their part, even though it was stressful.

“[My friends] from Cincinnati are making sure they get their mail-in ballots,” Connick said a couple weeks before the election. “One of my friends from Texas… he’s super stressed about getting his because he lives on campus so he doesn’t have a mailbox.” 

For others, these next few hours will be crucial. If you’ve gone home for the semester and you’re registered to vote in a swing state, it’s not too late to drive to the polls. 

I get it. Lines are long, time is money, and pandemic anxiety is real. But don’t let people convince you that your vote doesn’t matter – whether you live in a swing state or not. If everyone had that mentality, voter turnout would reach an all-time low, and the election results would not reflect the values of most Americans. If you refuse to vote, you can’t complain about the result. You didn’t think it mattered enough to even try to have a say. 

If you’re still on the fence about voting today, take some advice from Samuel Reece, the president of Vote Everywhere, a group on campus dedicated to voter education and accessibility.

“Think about what voting means on a more abstract level: even if your vote isn’t the deciding one, it is still an important statement that lets those in power know who they are accountable to,” Reece said.