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Turning 18 this past summer opened up a window of opportunities for me that I have been looking forward to for years. I was excited to have less work constrictions, more freedoms and most importantly, the opportunity to vote.  I am not the most politically involved however, I do know the issues that are important to me and where I stand on them. You may be thinking this issue of The Lake Front has way too many stories about voting, but that is because it is beyond important that you go out and let your voice be heard! In my column from last month I discussed how important it is to embrace change, and by sitting this election out  we are not doing that. I could sit here for hours writing an endorsement for all of the candidates that I voted for (for those of you do not know there is 17 pages on the voting machine to go through when voting for this election in Bexar county), but instead I wanted to emphasize that while yes, I would love for my candidates to win this election, it is more important that every single person living in the United States takes part in this election. To gain a better insight as to why some people are voting one way, are undecided, or are not voting this election; I spoke with some of my friends who fall into these categories as well as Associate Professor and Program Head of Political Science, Dr. Leda Barnett to hear their point of view. “It is incredibly important for first time and seasoned voters to vote in this election. If you want a check and balance on President Trump, you should vote. If you support President Trump and his agenda, you should vote. Every policy is at stake, on issues from immigration and family separations, action on climate change, the availability and cost of healthcare, the terms and conditions that students will pay back their student loans, and so much more. The ENTIRE House of Representatives is up for reelection, and one of our Senators is up for reelection. These people will make decisions that have a huge impact on your quality of life,” Dr. Barnett said. Freshmen Brianna de León would label herself as a moderate. “I don’t want to go with one or the other per say,” she said. She does not plan to vote this election. Freshman, Jorge Reyes is a political science major who typically aligns with the Republican Party but is undecided in this election. “In politics someone is going to be unhappy with their situation and I would not want that to be me, I don’t want to be disappointed in the turnout,” he said. Senior Naudia Gonzalez is a social work major who does not align with a specific party. “I will be voting for the 2018 midterm elections but have not yet.” she said. As of press time Gonzalez was undecided with her choice for the election. “My reason being Beto stands for a lot of things I believe in but Cruz can help economically,” Gonzalez said. I cast my vote October 24 when one of my candidates held an event near Las Palmas Library, and I know everyone has their own reasons for leaning towards one side of the political spectrum or the other. Three big issues that are important to me and persuaded my vote for this election are gun control, women’s rights, and education reform. For Gonzalez, gun control, healthcare, and economic issues are playing a part in her decision. The environment, taxes, and healthcare are issues that matter to de León. Barnett also felt there were multiple issues that students should become aware of. “There are so many! Will the Trump Administration renew the family separations at the border as part of its Zero Tolerance policy? It has said it is considering reviving it, especially since thousands of migrants are headed to the US border. Congress has the power through legislation to stop that policy, and to pass a sensible and humane immigration plan. But only if we elect Representatives who are willing to provide a check on the executive.  The Department of Education has considered removing or slashing many programs that benefit student loan borrowers, such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which would make it more difficult – and expensive – to pay back the loans. Congress could easily prevent that happening through legislation, but only if those elected care to do so. Congress could also address whether a citizenship question should be added to the Census. The Trump Administration has proposed adding a question to the 2020 US Census that would ask people whether they are citizens. The Constitution clearly states it should be a count of “all persons” and not be based on citizenship. Most experts believe adding this question would significantly suppress the counting of undocumented people and even some citizens of families with mixed immigration status. This would have huge negative effects on states like Texas, because Census counts are the basis for determining hundreds of millions of federal tax dollar allocations to states, for important things like roads and schools. It would likely have pronounced negative effects on how much money Texas would get relative to other states. Recently, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the world’s authoritative body on climate change) and the world’s leading scientists concluded in a report that we have 12 years to keep temperatures from rising below 1.5 degrees C before extreme climate effects occur, including extreme drought, floods, heat, and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. It would also pose a national security risk due to global scarcity of water and crops, and lead to extinction of many plants and animals. In other words, the change is accelerating and addressing this problem is an emergency. So what will our elected leaders do about it? What is our plan? Before I vote, I make sure the candidate has made a statement about this and has a plan of action to address this urgent problem. If you don’t vote, you get the status quo, which is doing nothing and allowing this to worsen. Healthcare is also on the ballot. What will elected officials do about skyrocketing healthcare costs? Do they believe healthcare is a human right? Will they protect people with pre-existing conditions from being shut out of healthcare? Will they eliminate or expand Obamacare? This election will decide. The Texas legislature and Texas governor are also up for reelection. They will play a major role in redistricting, which could determine whether elections are competitive and fair in the next few elections. They also play a major role in public school funding, environmental quality, voting rights, healthcare, and so much more. There are dozens of state and local level positions and judges also up for reelection,” she said. While Our Lady of the Lake University students do a great job of getting involved there are still many things we can do to be more involved with these major decisions. Pay attention to the news, attend rallies, watch the debates, listen to podcasts. If you don’t know what party you side with there are free political quizzes online like I Side With that can help you see where you fall. For those of you who cannot legally vote in this country your voice can still be heard, go out and talk to voters that you know and convince them to exercise their right and make the change in the world we want to see. “One could write a 1000 page book on just the important issues that are at stake in this election. No one can say that it doesn’t matter who wins, that their vote doesn’t count, or that it just doesn’t matter. Everyone’s lives will be affected by the outcome of this election. As Rock the Vote says, the only vote that doesn’t count is the one that wasn’t cast. Students hold an enormous power to make their voices heard to the older generations in office and to those making important decisions. If issues important to students aren’t being addressed, it’s because politicians believe students won’t vote and won’t hold them accountable. It’s easy to be corrupt when no one is paying attention or making noise. As my Mom always said, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” If you want change, you can’t count on others to make it happen,” Dr. Barnett said. “It is important to vote, it’s also important to get the information out and let more people know,” de León said. “Everyone needs to vote because their vote matters,” Gonzalez said. “Yes it is important for my generation to go vote. It is going to be the biggest voter turnout since the 60s and 70s. All voices should be heard no matter how small,” Reyes said. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to go out and let your voice be heard. Use your voice and your vote to showcase the changes that you want to see in the world. Whether you are red, blue or undecided, your voice matters and you have the right to make decisions in regards to major issues that will affect your life and the lives of those around you.
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