What will you be doing on Nov. 6, 2018? If you answered, “Voting in the midterm elections,” you can skim the rest of this article.
For everyone else, read on! It’s important to understand why it is important vote, where you are registered to vote and how to request an absentee ballot, if needed.
While in college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I always voted absentee because I wanted a say in local elections in my hometown of Oshkosh, WI. I was particularly interested in participating in local elections because of ongoing education reform in Oshkosh and how it would affect my younger sibling’s education. Now, as a graduate student in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at UMD, I vote because it is one of the easiest ways to be involved in civic engagement.
In 2008, 1.7 million people between the ages of 18 and 24 were not registered to vote—mostly because they did not know how to register or missed important deadlines. In particular, students, new to voting and to college face additional hurdles like understanding how and where to register and if identification is needed to vote or not.
Young adults ages 18-29 comprised about 21 percent of the eligible voting population in 2014, but only 17 percent of those eligible voters actually voted. Although voter turnout is typically higher in years of a presidential election, voting in local elections has a larger impact on your day-to-day life. For example, local policies such as income tax, reproductive rights and education reform are decided at the provincial level. All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats of the U.S. Senate will be contested. Additionally, 39 state and territorial governorships and other state and local elections will be decided on. In Maryland, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is up for reelection, as well as Democratic Senator Ben Cardin.
Additionally, local elections are more likely decided by a margin. Even in the June 2018 Maryland primary, multiple elections were close. For example, in Prince George’s County, Rodney Streeter beat out Krystal Oriadha by 31 votes in the District 7 council race and Sydney Harrison won by 55 votes in District 9 over Tamara Davis Brown. The line “my vote does not count” is not true in local elections.
In order to vote in Maryland, you need to be a Maryland resident who has lived in Maryland for at least 6 months and registered by Oct. 16, 2018. If you register to vote with your University of Maryland address, your assigned polling place is STAMP Student Union, open 7 a.m.-8 p.m. on Election Day. To check if you are registered in Maryland, visit: https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/VoterSearch. To request a Maryland absentee ballot, your request needs to be received by the state by Oct. 30 if you want a mail or fax ballot, or by Nov. 2 for a downloaded ballot.
If you are from out of state, you will need to register for an absentee ballot. The deadlines for requesting an absentee ballot vary state to state.To check your state’s guidelines, visit Rock the Vote or Vote411.org.
As an international student, your voting opportunities are more limited in the U.S., but you can still express your right by participating in university elections, such as voting for student government association representatives or other leaders in student organizations. Additionally, noncitizens are allowed to cast ballots in municipal elections in College Park. The next City Election will be Nov. 5, 2019.
Additional resources are available through the University of Maryland’s Terps Vote coalition at http://umddepartments.orgsync.com/org/terpsvote/home. Terps Vote has resources about candidates, other dates and deadlines to keep in mind, as well as TurboVote, an online system allowing college students to easily register to vote in any state. Additionally, as part of the Freedom to Vote Act, all state universities including the University of Maryland has a direct ‘Register to Vote’ link on the registration website.
I urge everyone, and particularly students, to vote this upcoming midterm election. Casting a ballot is the best way to have a say in who will represent you and how they will address issues that matter to you. As President Lyndon Johnson said, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.”
Please, make your voice heard this November.
On the first day, the special guest speaker was Prof. Yuan Lee, the first Taiwanese to win a Nobel Prize in 1986 in Chemistry, and spoke about the achievements and challenges of atmospheric chemists. He quoted Sherwood Roland, another Nobel Prize recipient famous for his work understanding how chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) deplete stratospheric ozone:
I think this quote motivates scientists to continue to work hard explaining their research to the general public and policymakers. While the ozone hole is well on its way towards recovery, new environmental problems such as global warming necessitate atmospheric chemist's attention. Scientists need to be able to effectively communicate the importance of their research to properly inform decision makers whether that be in congress, at school, at home, or at work.
Particularly notable during this conference was the emphasis in encouraging early career scientists. From special talks, catered lunches, and other special events, IGAC/iCACGP strengthened our science communication skills and provided valuable resources in meeting both other early career scientists as well as established scientists in the field. I found the early career lunch with established scientists exceptionally useful. I find it hard to speak to established scientists on my own and having a space to do so with other students was a fantastic opportunity. It was also helpful to receive career advice about post-doc opportunities and learn about other atmospheric chemistry programs across the globe.
Another highlight of the early career scientist program was the early career special talk by Prof. Lee. Speaking candidly, he told us stories as a kid when he chose to play baseball in Taiwan so he could get out of school earlier or talks with his mother about becoming a Nobel Laureate before he became one. Lastly, he encouraged us to make the world a better place and to "dare to be different."
While I do not have time to discuss all what I have learned at IGAC/iCACGP, I will leave you with some of my takeaways:
Talk after talk, speakers during IGAC/iCACGP always thanked their students and peers who contributed to their work. Science is not done alone and you need a strong and supportive community to help you along. In a time of increasing environmental dilemmas, I believe this is especially true.
Attending IGAC/iCACGP has definitely been the highlight of my graduate career thus far. I am thankful for the travel support I was awarded through the University of Maryland Graduate School and my department. While international conferences are expensive, I think participating as a student helped me to gain potential career perspectives as I come closer to graduating and (hopefully?) finding a job/post-doc.