Realization flooded over me as my body slammed into a wall of my own idiocy. The polls were 100 feet away, and my license was laid in my top desk drawer, back in my dorm. My teeth clenched and my face felt warm as I rolled my eyes and turned around. I knew damn well the two older ladies that were speed walking past me eyed me; they even recognized my pure stupidity. Who forgets their license on their way to vote? I began the trek back to my dorm with slumped shoulders and furrowed brows. The gentle, cold breeze of the day accelerated to whip me in the face and taunt me with arctic ferocity. Why should I even make this walk again? Why even waste more time to turn back around and fill a pointless bubble in? It’s only the primaries anyways. I slammed my feet into the asphalt and the bland neighborhood around me faded from my attention as I became lost in my own mind.
Why vote when politics don’t even affect me? I crossed my arms and scoffed. I paused and took a deep breath. I’m just frustrated. I uncrossed my arms, sighed and continued my cold walk to my dorm. Okay, so politics are the reason I’m on this horrible walk, but where will I be in four years? The administration we choose now determines college debt policies, tax policies, health insurance policies and tons of issues that impact me directly in just a few years. Anybody who gets married, buys property, starts paying for their own health insurance or gets their first job and begins to realize the extent of their college debt will experience the impacts of political issues. I spotted a plastic Dunkin’ cup on the ground, grabbed it off the newly-exposed grass and thought about the environmental policies that determine the future of our beautiful planet. I tossed the cup in a recycling bin sitting in front of the next house I passed and continued on.
What if I just don’t care about politics? What if I just don’t want to vote? I toyed with the thought, fishing for any reason to not turn back when I waltzed through the door of my warm dorm. Voting is a privilege, not a requirement after all. Devine Hall lay in sight; I hastened my step and sped past a handicapped parking space before racing up the stairs. I grabbed my student ID, opened the door, stepped into my warm hall—and the word privilege struck me. I have the privilege to choose not to vote, some people don’t have a choice at all.
If I’m not going to vote for myself, I should vote for the Americans with disabilities who can’t make it to the polling place because of an inability to drive or a lack of accessibility. I should vote for convicted felons who were stripped of their vote, which includes a disproportionate amount of Black and Latino populations. I should vote for those who avoid the polls because they don’t want to state their birth name and gender, or for those hard-working Americans who work double-shifts and can’t escape work while the polls are open. Even if I choose not to care about politics, I should care about others. Voting for LGBTQ+ rights, the equal rights of Americans with disabilities and expanding the right to vote helps my neighbors, my friends and thousands of Americans. I should vote for them, but I should vote for myself too. Nobody else is going to vote in my interest, only I can. I grabbed my license out of my top drawer and turned to the door.
I stood behind the red and blue curtain and gripped the marker in my hand, staring at the Democratic Primary Ballot. I filled in the bubble next to Bernie Sanders. I took my ballot and pulled the curtain aside to go place my ballot in the box that made my little bubble an official vote.
That night, I sat in a hall lounge with my friends as the final results danced across our screens and we saw how the youth swayed the vote. Fifty-one percent of NH youth voters supported Bernie Sanders, while Pete Buttigieg only gained 20 percent of the younger population’s vote. This difference gave Sanders a huge lead. Sanders’ support was much lower among New Hampshire’s older voters, proving just how much power my generation really held in the election. My vote mattered. I smirked as I remembered my walk back to the dorm for my ID and that vital decision to return to the polls.
I sauntered into Oyster River High School following the signs for same-day registration. With no line to wait in, I approached a table and fell into a seat. I took my license out of my wallet and my student ID along with it. The older women facilitating my paperwork picked up both IDs and turned to the woman she was training.
“Her driver’s license proves her identity and age,” she said. “If she didn’t have it, and only had her student ID, then we would just have her fill out an affidavit swearing that she is 18 or older like the one she will fill out for citizenship.” She looked down at the papers in front of her to choose one for me. The familiar rush of realization overcame my senses; I never even needed my license to go to the polls, the student ID in my pocket could have carried me that last 100 feet.