By Angelis Pajares
How often do you floss? Every night like you’re supposed to? Or maybe three times a week? Never? I’ll bet a good portion of you are pretty disappointed with your response. I remember being a kid sitting at the dentist and dreading those three expected words. “How’s flossing going?” Like most kids, I may have sliiightly exaggerated my answer.
I’d say I’m a much better flosser now, but I’m not gonna lie, I still occasionally forget. In hindsight, if I had put in the effort to make flossing a habit as a kid, I’m sure I wouldn’t even think twice about doing it each night now. It would just sorta be natural.
The same goes with voting.
Like flossing, voting is a habit and a healthy one at that. But it’s one that has been neglected.
Our generation will likely feel the future effects of current passing legislation the strongest, yet we currently make up the least active voting block. Now more than ever, it’s important to ensure our elected officials are listening to our concerns and enacting the change we want to see. Think about it. How many times have we had to prove the threat of climate change and yet no major policies have been agreed upon? How many times have we had to march about racial injustices and still minor legislative responses? How many times have we students had to stress the importance of mental health and yet politicians still disregard the urgency of routine care?
Expressing our concerns vocally is absolutely necessary in our democratic system, but the truth is, we can’t forget about the power of our votes. They determine who gets to control our future. It is both our right and our responsibility to vote and flood these offices with politicians who care about our needs. Because if we don’t, then who are we to complain about the outcomes later?
Now our failure to develop this voting habit isn’t entirely our fault. Growing up, our schools never really taught us the importance of our voting system or the role we play in it. Sure, we took lots of history classes, but what about civic education? In his book OMG WTF Does the Constitution Actually Say?, Ben Sheehan explains that “civics is our participation toolkit” and years of little civic education has led to a less than 30 percent K-12 civic proficiency. Without this knowledge or the encouragement to be politically active, why would we be inclined to vote or care?
But imagine if things changed. Imagine if our schools not only encouraged us to vote but helped us register. Imagine if our schools fostered and nurtured this habit through more civic learning. Think of all the consistent and informed voters we’d have.
PA Youth Vote has been leading an incredible campaign to make these “imagine ifs” a reality. They are currently working to get their voter registration policy adopted by the Philadelphia School Board. This proposal would require both in-school voter registration and engagement programming to help us fortify our role as responsible democratic citizens.
Let’s join PA Youth Vote and show our community how implementing this policy is just the first step in ensuring our powerful participation. Whether it’s flossing or voting, let’s keep up the habit!
Angelis Pajares is a first-generation college student at Penn who hails from Southwest Florida with a passion for public policy. As the daughter of immigrants, she has aspirations to attend law school and one day practice immigration law.