Don’t miss the moment: SRJC students eager and anxious to vote


Courtesy US Census Bureau

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, voter turnout of 18- to 29-year-olds jumped from 20% in 2014 to 36% in 2018, the largest increase for any age group — a 79% jump.

Emma Molloy, Staff Writer

Election day is fast approaching and Santa Rosa Junior College students are on the edge of their seats, anxious to hear who will be the next U.S. president. Students recognize the importance of this election and urge young voters to exercise their right to vote. 

SRJC psychology major Leah Kay said, “I’m scared, honestly,” when asked for her thoughts on the upcoming election. She fears what will happen with climate change, the pandemic and abortion rights if President Donald Trump is re-elected. 

“He appointed Amy Coney Barrett, and she wants to ban abortion,” Kay said. 

Kay and other students voiced their concern for the future. They recognize their votes could make a difference. Millennials are the only age group to see voter turnout increase since 2012. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, voter turnout of 18- to 29-year-olds jumped from 20% in 2014 to 36% in 2018, the largest increase for any age group — a 79% jump.

Kay is worried for the planet’s future, for women’s rights and the pandemic’s handling. Voting in this election is “way more important than past elections, way more serious,” she said.  

Kay is passionate there’s only one right way to steer our democracy in the right direction. “If you’re not voting, that’s a vote for Trump,” she said. “If you’re voting third party, that’s a vote for Trump. If you’re voting for Kanye, that’s so stupid, and it’s a vote for Trump. If you vote for Trump, guess what? You’re a piece of sh*t.” 

Kay recognizes some people are not thrilled about Biden, but hopes his running mate provides the missing energy. “Kamala Harris is young. She’s modern and progressive. If she takes over that would be so cool,” the 22-year-old SRJC student said. 

Students aren’t the only ones concerned about this election’s outcome; Rep. Jared Huffman of California’s 2nd District fears we are on the brink of losing our way as a free society. 

“We’re at a very existential moment for whether we’re going to continue to have a democracy,” he said in a Q&A with The Oak Leaf. 

Huffman wants everyone to vote. “To say that Democrats are no different than Republicans is deeply ignorant in the face of what we’re living through,” he said. “One party wants to continue a flawed-but-great democratic republic that we can all work together on making better; the other wants to take us down the path of authoritarian fascism.” 

Laurel Cozad, 21, an SRJC graphic design student, also thinks this election is critical. “It’s the most important election ever. It could either destroy our democracy — or hopefully save it with Biden.” 

She doesn’t mince words when it comes to people who refuse to vote. “That is by far the most stupid decision ever. I can’t even process it,” she said. “Students need to get out there and vote. Send your ballot in by Oct. 20 and vote the f*cker out.”

West Below, 19, a computer science student and the president of SRJC’s Young Americans for Liberty club, believes the propositions in this election are what young voters should focus on. “So many people are disillusioned with the current political system. People need to vote on their local ballot measures; they will affect your lives much more directly and immediately than the presidential election.”

Rep. Mike Thompson of California’s 5th District believes in educating all citizens on the importance of voting at every level, from local to federal. 

“The idea of folks not voting at any age has always puzzled me,” he said. “We’ve got a constitutional crisis right now in our country, and the idea that you would throw a vote away that could be used to correct this problem, I don’t understand.”

In 1965, Thompson marched with now-deceased civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis in Selma, Alabama, to protest African American’s right to vote. 

“John Lewis as a young activist was beaten within an inch of his life on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, protesting so all of us would be able to vote,” Thompson recalled. “John Lewis said, ‘I bled and almost died so you could have the right to vote.’ Do your part: vote.” 

Thompson’s colleague in the House agrees the path to a stronger democracy is via the ballot box. 

“Our country has never been perfect,” Huffman said. “It’s always needed to get better, but to throw away all of the tools that can make it better at a moment like this is just profoundly missing the moment.”