Exercise your right to vote, because others aren’t as lucky

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I grew up in the war-torn country of Afghanistan. There, power was transferred from one group to another through armed conflicts. Rules and laws were set according to their whims and wishes. I always had this dream that one day the people would decide who would govern us. It didn’t happen until after the fall of the Taliban government in Afghanistan in 2001.

We have had three elections since then. The Afghan people struggle and make sacrifices to exercise their right to vote, to have their voice heard and their vote counted. All so they can have a better future.

The Taliban, on one hand, has attacked voting sites and threatened people to keep them from the polls. The government, on the other, commits fraud to stay in power. Despite these challenges, people are determined to shape their future and stand up for their rights and values.

Oct. 19 marked our third parliamentary election and the turnout was massive. Old and young, men and women alike all went to the polls; some lined up from dawn until dark to make their voices heard.

This Nov. 6, voters in the U.S. will decide who will control the House of Representatives, the Senate, 36 governors’ offices, and many local offices. I personally think people should vote in the election because the results will affect every aspect of our daily lives.

For instance, Congress is responsible for creating laws that impact the cost of college education, taxes, health care and other social and economic policies. So, study the issues and vote for the candidate you think has the best ideas and plans.

If your local government is not doing well, then take the opportunity to change it. Voting is more than just a right; it is your responsibility. You need to show up during the election and vote.

While about 60 percent of eligible U.S. voters turn out in presidential election years, only 40 percent do at a midterm. In Minnesota, which has the highest turnout rates in the country, 75 percent voted in 2016 but only half—50.5 percent—did in the 2014 midterm election. We can do better!

There are many reasons why people don’t vote. Some think that their votes don’t count. Others are too busy, and say the lines are too long.

Unlike in my home country, every vote counts here in the U.S.. With razor-thin margins in many races, every vote makes a difference. Unlike in my home country, it’s quick and it’s easy here. You won’t have to wait in line—at least not for long. Unlike in my home country, here you even have the right to vote during your regular work hours.

If you’re not registered already, you can register in person (with proof of identity and residence) from now until Nov. 5 at your county election office. On election day, Nov. 6, you can simply register at your polling location. Find out more information and preview your ballot at mnvotes.org. And then vote, on or before Nov. 6, to support a country that gives us a say.

Wahidy is the coordinator of Metro State Votes, a nonpartisan campaign to educate voters and increase participation in elections among students and staff. He is majoring in biology.

Wondering where to vote?
Go to pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us and enter your address. Polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. As long as you’re in line by 8 p.m., you can vote.
Want to know what’s on your ballot?
Go to myballotmn.sos.state.mn.us and enter your address to see a sample ballot.
Need to register on Election Day?
You can register or update your registration at your polling place on Election Day, Nov. 6. See sos.state.mn.us/media/3270/election-day-registration-2018.pdf for a list of ways to prove your residence.
New to voting and not sure what to expect?
See sos.state.mn.us/media/3185/new-voters-2018.pdf for a step-by-step guide for new voters.
Want to be a more informed voter?
Check out the Campus Election Engagement Project at campuselect.org for voter education resources and nonpartisan guides to candidates and issues on the ballot.