It’s been easy to overlook the youth vote — until recently, we’ve been seen as an immobilized voting bloc, to be recruited as volunteers rather than to be courted as a constituency. However, we challenged that notion in 2008 when we more than tripled our turnout as one of the pivotal groups that put President Barack Obama in The White House. It’s no coincidence that we have since seen newfound attention by elected officials in issues that affect us, such as tuition fees, financial aid, and making sure young people can stay on health insurance plans up to 26.
We are a political force to be contended with but the truth is this, we need to continue to vote and make our voices heard if we want to have a real impact in creating change. This November, we have the opportunity to reinforce our political power not only by helping to re-elect our President, but by making the difference on several state and local ballots measures that have a direct impact on us.
On the state ballot, we have Proposition 30, the Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act, which extends existing taxes to provide needed revenue for education and public safety. If we do not turn out and flex our political muscle, Prop. 30 may not pass, which would mean devastating cuts to education and more tuition increases at a time when many students and families are already struggling.
Locally, we have Measure R, a redistricting measure that eliminates outdated and restrictive boundaries so that there is flexibility to better consider communities of interests, such as students. Measure R presents an incredible opportunity for students to truly matter in Berkeley politics with possible representation on Berkeley City Council. I am proud to have helped draft Measure R and I welcome the opportunity to no longer be the only young person on the council — though we need to elect a student soon, since I can’t stay young forever. We need to be loud and clear on Measure R in order to be better heard on council. With a student representative, we can effectively push issues such as public safety, affordable housing and public transportation close to us.
These are only a sample of measures this fall that have a huge impacts on young adults in Berkeley but there are several other measures that are no less important and require us to do our part and educate ourselves. Like Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, I highly encourage students to do the research to cast an informed vote. There are many resources to get information about the various measures, such as smartvoter.org and ballotpedia.org — great resources that present information in an efficient and easy manner — for state measures and the city of Berkeley’s election website for local measures.
However, we should do more beyond committing vote. With stakes that will shape our future and the future of our country, we should work to spread the word about the important measures on the ballot, whether it’s through Facebook, an email or joining the voter registration table hosted by the ASUC Vote Coalition. I will be personally involved with many local campaigns to help educate voters and I invite everyone to find a local measure they care about and get involved.
This November, we can continue making the strides we’ve made since 2008. Only by turning out and voting can we affect the political equation that has too long diminished the value of young voters. We have the opportunity to not only weigh in on issues that personally affect us, but we can solidify ourselves as a group to be listened to, not taken for granted. We ARE the margin of victory. The saying goes that we must be the change we want to see. To do that, please educate yourself and get involved and vote this November.
Jesse Arreguin is the Berkeley City Council member representing district 4.
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