Leaving the sidelines: Get informed and get registered

Leaving+the+sidelines%3A+Get+informed+and+get+registered

Graphic by James Howe

Nick DeMarchis, Senior Writer

Middle school recreational soccer teams are not the way that people generally think about elections, but it’s 2020, so adding some whimsy to this process is probably good for everyone. So, please, indulge in the following metaphor:

It’s a chilly Saturday morning and your friends on the Galaxy kick-off against the rival Pirates at 10:30 a.m. sharp. The first half is rough: you’re on defense, so you only ever get to play when things get bad. And you were playing a lot this game. The Pirates have somehow managed to score five goals on you without a single return from your team. You feel outmaneuvered, undertrained and straight-up insignificant compared to their force, which is far more coordinated and much larger than you.

You were responsible for the snacks this week, so some apple slices and Capri Suns are sure to revive your team’s spirits for the second half. But they don’t revive yours. You feel like getting involved in this game is fruitless: you’re tired of the game, you feel like you can’t contribute anything and you don’t know any moves that can turn things around. “Let’s stick on the sidelines this time. If I get involved, if I play this game, every option for what I do is horrible. I won’t make a difference.” So, you pull your coach aside and let them know you don’t want to play.

“Don’t want to play? Come on. We need you just as much as we need anyone else.” Your teammates hear the news of your decision, and then encourage you to get on the field, but instead, you keep yourself on the bench. You think the consequences and inconvenience outweigh the benefits, right? The parents in the stands catch wind of your intention, and they cheer you on as well, calling out your name directly to get you out there. But you stay sitting. Your phone starts going off with texts from friends not at the game, and people in passing cars slow down once they hear the news to try to get you involved (this metaphor world is weird). 

You get the idea. Everyone is trying to get you involved in this vital game, but you stay firmly seated on the sidelines. You are the only person who can get yourself up and back in the game for the second half, and everyone who’s been encouraging you knows that. 

I understand those who feel as if voting in this year’s November election will not have an impact, or if the candidate whom you actually supported either dropped out, didn’t run or has no chance. I also understand if you believe your favorite is going to win anyway, or if you feel like both of the major options are simply horrible (and in some respects, I agree with you). This election is, to put it lightly, contentious, and taking a step back is something understandable that many of our peers want to do.

But this is not what we should do. Pennsylvania is widely considered to be a swing state in this election: whichever presidential candidate wins Pennsylvania has, by one model, a 96% chance of winning the Electoral College. Your vote will have an outsized impact here. Your vote will matter here. And that’s just for our nationwide offices — this November, we also vote for our state’s Attorney General (our state’s top prosecutor), Auditor General (who makes sure that your tax dollars are well-spent) and our congresspeople and state legislatures. All of these things ultimately affect us students here in Lewisburg; the Attorney General conducted a review of the University’s new dining plans when students alleged price-gouging, and the Auditor General annually looks at the University’s financial statements for any misuse. This, of course, is not to mention the numerous rules for universities that are set at the federal or state level. It all affects us here, regardless of whether we see those changes in an immediate, tangible way.

Now, perhaps I am preaching to the choir at this point: anyone reading a fully-digital version of The Bucknellian is probably registered and willing to vote. But, to those people, you have a friend who chooses not to inform themselves, and/or isn’t registered to vote. Telling them about this is positively vital, as one-on-one contact can actually help increase not only registrations but actual turnout.

The resources are there for you to step out onto the field; websites like BallotReady and iSideWith provide nonpartisan voter resources to help you decide with whom you agree most. I have used them myself and was genuinely surprised at commonalities with people that I didn’t expect. News sites like Ground News allow you to compare the same headline between media outlets with different levels of bias. This resource is invaluable for getting a deeper understanding of political polarization and helping each of us to better understand our own biases. Everyone who spends a significant amount of time in America – or lives in it – should at least be informed on these issues. But, everyone who is eligible to vote should get registered as well. Bucknell.turbovote.org is a phenomenal resource that helps to ensure that students here, in Lewisburg, are able to participate in their civic duty this Nov. 3.

Comedian Jay Foreman put it well when he quipped that, “When you and your friends are bitterly complaining the country’s being paddled up the doo-wop, by a [president] you hate and a party you can’t stand, you can at least take solace in the ability to smugly shrug and say, ‘Well, it wasn’t our fault.’”

Your team needs you. Everyone and their mother (quite literally in this rec soccer metaphor) is calling for you to get off the sidelines and get involved this year. If you’ve never voted or never done a deep-dive on where our candidates stand, now is the year to do it. You can gain the knowledge you need to jump back on the field for your team. Get informed, get registered and make the moves to be an active participant in our democracy this year. Our country needs you, now more than ever. Get informed and vote.

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