As embodied by our unofficial motto, “Princeton in the nation’s service and in the service of humanity,” a core principle of a Princeton education is contributing to our nation and its various communities. Every year, students, faculty, and administrators find many ways to contribute to local and national communities. Similarly, every four years members of the University face the important opportunity of voting in the U.S. presidential elections. This is an infrequent chance to have a direct influence on the direction of the country by selecting a large number of local, state, and national representatives. To capitalize on this unique opportunity, the Board encourages all students to take advantage of the various ongoing and upcoming on-campus activities in preparation for the forthcoming election. Particularly, the Board encourages participation in today’s voter and absentee ballot registration campaign.
Some people might think that voting is a “waste of time” and that their votes aren’t worth anything due to their particular places of residency and the intricacies of the U.S. electoral system. While it is true that one person’s vote is not likely to decide the election, this mentality of futility misrepresents the important impact of individual civic participation in the electoral process. Polls show that the presidential race is still tightly contested in a dozen states and, in addition to each individual’s vote, engaging in discussions with friends, neighbors, and family members can actually influence more many more votes. Furthermore, there are thousands of “down-ballot” positions being contested in cities and counties across the United States and, regardless of the presidential outcome, those representatives will be making real decisions affecting the wellbeing of millions of people across the country. While not all faculty and students might be eligible to participate in the upcoming elections, the Board strongly urges all Princetonians who meet the requirements to register, if needed, and prepare to vote. Thus the Board encourages students to take advantage of the on-campus voter registration opportunities. Today, the American Whig-Cliosophic Society, the Interclub Council, Princeton Votes, and USG have organized a campus-wide effort to help students register to vote. Booths have been set up at locations across campus, including Frist Campus Center, Whig Hall, residential colleges, and even the Street from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. to help students register. We further commend the student organizers of these election-related initiatives for providing these opportunities.
Time is running out to participate in the election and it is crucial for students who have not registered or requested an absentee ballot to do so as soon as possible. The national elections are Nov. 8th and while the registration deadlines vary by state, most states require a registration request submitted at least 30 days before the election, in addition to an unpredictable application processing time. Furthermore, students who will not be present at the location where they are registered must request an absentee ballot, which on average must be requested at least a week before the election and must be mailed to arrive by election day.
Just as important as becoming a registered voter, however, is becoming an informed voter. Getting familiar with the policy proposals of the presidential candidates means considering their plans on topics ranging from military spending to education, and this process must be multiplied to cover the dozens of state and local candidates. This is a time-consuming task, but fortunately there are many resources available on campus for students looking to get informed about political events. In addition to this past Monday’s panel and debate screening at Richardson Auditorium, Whig-Clio will be hosting further debate screenings open to all students on campus, and other student groups are organizing similar activities. This is an area where those ineligible to vote can still make worthwhile contributions, and we encourage our peers to share their perspectives to help us think through the important political issues of the moment. As we have affirmed in the past, we support the freedom of speech and expression of all students if conducted civilly, and remind students to respect the views of their peers who disagree and demand the same respect for their own opinions.
Allison Berger ’18 and Megan Armstrong ’19 recused themselves from the writing of this editorial.
Jack Whelan ’19 abstained from the writing of this editorial.
The Editorial Board is an independent body and decides its opinions separately from the regular staff and editors of The Daily Princetonian. The Board answers only to its Chair, the Opinion Editor, and the Editor-in-Chief.