In the weeks since early in-person voting began in Ohio, Kenyon students have been making the trek to cast their ballots at the Knox County Board of Elections in downtown Mount Vernon. Many of us are voting in a presidential election for the first time in our lives. It’s exciting. And for students from states like California and New York, the chance to cast our votes in a swing state is a privilege.
As voters, many Kenyon students are fish out of water. A wave of liberal, frequently left-leaning teenagers and 20-somethings emerge from our bubble on the Hill to vote in rural Ohio every election, with a clear intention of swinging a state that, in most cases, isn’t ours. This is not based on any conception that we know better than our neighbors in Mount Vernon. We all cast a ballot based on our own beliefs. The decision to vote in Ohio is a way to ensure our votes reach their full potential in a democracy where not all ballots carry equal weight.
In this year’s presidential election, many people’s rights are on the line. The sitting president’s racist, anti-immigrant, and sexist rhetoric has made America’s political divide extremely stark. Now more than ever, voting is an important way of advocating for one’s community. America’s long-writ police brutality crisis has entered the national spotlight, pushing the fight against systemic racism to a historical tipping point. The confirmation of a conservative Supreme Court justice has put women’s rights on the line, and threatened reproductive rights as well. On top of all this, we’re still in the trenches of a global pandemic and rapidly heading into a full-on climate crisis. These are incredibly high stakes.
Our intention as voters is to have a direct impact on our government. Voting in decidedly red or blue states is an important civic duty, but can feel like a borderline symbolic act. Ohio is a swing state, and our votes will likely have a stronger impact here. In what could be the most important election of our lifetimes, this is a powerful opportunity to influence national politics.
It’s generally understood that those from red or blue states have very little voting power compared to our counterparts in swing states. In a critical election year, our votes are needed. Living in Ohio, even as temporary residents, is a rare and wonderful opportunity to maximize our civic impact, and truly make our voices heard. Though it shouldn’t matter which state we vote in, the Electoral College created a power imbalance. If we can level the playing field, even slightly, by voting in Gambier, we should go for it.
Grace Goldstein ’24 is a columnist for the Collegian. She is an undeclared major from New York, N.Y. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.