From women’s rights, education and taxes to global warming, national debt, universal healthcare and immigration, the United States is in line for one of its most progressive or regressive periods in decades. While Election Day may still seem a long way out, there are numerous things to keep in mind before the calendars start reading “November.”
First and foremost, as a voting populace, the student body should be aware of who the presidential candidates are and which end of the political spectrum they represent. This may at first seem silly, but odds are a significant portion of the student body cannot identify each of the dozen Republican and three Democratic candidates still in the race. Beyond just knowing the names, every voter has a responsibility to gain an understanding of the policies and plans of each candidate.
Financially burdened, busy and frequently overwhelmed, it is often easier for students to allow someone else to form their political opinions. Without access to television or time to spare reviewing countless debates and conferences, students tend to establish their political perspectives based on ease of access: memes circulating Facebook, 140 character slanderous Twitter statements, judgmental in-class discussions etc. The fact is that it is easier to believe the political statements of a friend, co-worker or professor than it is to verify the validity of those statements. Students should neither allow those around them to discount their informed judgments nor base their beliefs on popular opinion. With that in mind, there are some other things to consider throughout the year.
When considering the 2016 presidential campaign, it is important to understand the major national issues and where to stand on them. This will help in identifying what things to look for in a candidate. After all, these are the people who will potentially represent the voter and their stance. Some of the more important things student voters should take into consideration include where candidates stand on education and their plans for the job market.
Informed voters are not limited to cable subscribers. There is no need to watch hours of debates to research candidates and their political backgrounds or plans. Every student has access to the internet through MSU and the resources therein to help with gaining political insight. Sites like the Conservative Review, iSideWith and Ballotpedia offer profiles on each candidate with details regarding their stances on major political issues. iSideWith.com can also help with determining which candidate best represents the voter based on the results of a short quiz regarding national issues.
Additionally, constituents should not limit themselves to voting for the individual. For many voters, no single candidate may be appealing. Should voters find themselves in this position it may be best to vote for a party instead of the individual. Though the president definitely has influence and acts as our country’s main representative, Congress has constitutional powers that can better meet the demands of a constituency than the president; mainly in its authority to make laws. However, a vote for the party line could determine the upcoming political landscape in that the next president may appoint as many as four Supreme Court justices, which would determine the future legal status of hot issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.
Finally, every voter should know both where to vote and whether they are currently registered to do so. Polling locations were recently changed from campus to Hope Lutheran Church as MSU’s nearest polling place. MSU students can check the Montana Secretary of State website for additional information on voting locations and eligibility as well as their registration status.