As a first year at Bowdoin, I was beyond excited to cast my first-ever vote in the 2018 midterm election. I’ve always held great respect for voting, largely because of my dad, who was born in Canada and became an American citizen when I was 11. Becoming a citizen is a long and difficult process, but he believed it was worth the effort to be able to participate in the democratic process.
When I turned 18 and became eligible to vote, I chose to register here in Maine because Bowdoin would be my home for the next four years. I believe it is both important for democratic representation, and in my interest as a citizen, to vote where it will affect me the most. Of course, I still feel a strong connection to my home state of New York, and I have no way of knowing what the coming years will bring. But for now, I live in Brunswick.
For Bowdoin students, voting in Brunswick is an opportunity to make an impact both in national politics and in our day-to-day experience as residents of Maine. We live in Brunswick for nine months out of the year, abiding by state laws, driving on the state and town roads, paying state sales tax and complaining about the town’s snow plowing. Every single day, we are affected by the decisions of elected officials in Maine. It is both our right and our responsibility to have a say in these decisions—from whether Maine should declare a climate emergency, to whether Brunswick should move the farmers’ market farther from campus.
In 2020, the stakes are much higher than deciding the location of the farmers’ market. Maine could help flip the Senate from Republican control because Senator Susan Collins is up for reelection this year and has been polling precariously since she cast the deciding vote to elevate Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Our votes as newly-registered Mainers could be the difference between a Republican- and Democratic-controlled Senate, which could lead to sweeping change nationwide, or at the very least a strengthening of checks and balances.
As young people, we often feel like our votes don’t matter. Like the fate of our country is decided by a handful of Baby Boomers in Michigan and Florida every election. That doesn’t have to be the case.
Thirty-seven percent of eligible voters are under the age of 35. If we turn out at the same rate as retirees, this election could be decided by the millions of young people who will live and lead the future of this country. Because of Maine’s older voting population, high youth voter turnout holds more potential power here than almost anywhere else in the country. The way to start wielding that collective power is by voting where we live.
Knowing the statistics and the stakes, I decided to get to work registering my peers here on campus to vote in Maine. Since November, I have been working as a Bowdoin campus fellow with NextGen America, the largest youth voter mobilization organization in the country. As a member of its Maine team, I am working to help Bowdoin reach its highest-ever level of student voter turnout for the 2020 general election. To achieve this, I believe that we students should register to vote here in Maine, both because this is where we live and because it is where our votes can do the most good.
My dad became an American citizen so that he could vote to protect and improve my future. Now, I’m registering my peers to vote so that we can take control of our own futures. If you are interested in getting involved with NextGen or if you want to register to vote in Maine, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or come chat in person if you see me around campus. I’ll be the one riding a purple, light-up bike!
Maddie Hikida is a member of the Class of 2022.