Employing Our Privileges

Morgan Pierce, Editor

As I sat in a rickety old 12 passenger bus, I began passing the beginnings of construction
within the middle of a dirt road leading to the vast and beautiful Murchison Falls National Park.
Murchison Falls is home to 76 species of mammals, Uganda’s largest population of Nile
crocodiles and 450 species of birds. As I was traveling to this expansive park, I was appalled by
the sight of construction on the roadways.
Our tour guide explained that the Chinese government came to Uganda in search of oil
and found the perfect supply in Murchison Falls. The Chinese government paid off the Ugandan
government and got approval to uproot this natural beauty in search of oil. This uprooting will
not only cause the destruction of the landscape, but also divert animals to new locations.
According to our tour guide, animals like elephants and lions can sense the smell of oil and have
a strong distaste towards it, which will cause them to leave the park in search of a new home.
As I heard this devastating news, I realized the privileges that come along with being an
American citizen. The Ugandan government is a corrupt presidential republic. Those who work
within Murchison Falls, or who hold it in high regards, have no say in government policy and
therefore the infiltration of the Chinese government. But as a citizen of the United States, my
right to vote can truly make a difference and prevent devastating events such as the one in
Murchison Falls.

We live in a country where the right to vote is given to any American citizen over the age
of 18 and where voter registration can begin as early as age 16. On Feb. 4 2020, a special
election was held to fill the remainder of the term in the United States House of Representatives
for Maryland’s seventh congressional district in the 116 U.S. Congress and I was finally eligible
to vote.
After witnessing the atrocities found in a third world country, I am an advocate of
exercising one’s right to vote. I walked into Jacksonville Elementary School and cast my ballot.
As I finished, the woman handing out the “I Voted” stickers asked me if this was my first-time
voting and I said yes. She then went on to announce to the room that I was a first-time voter and
everyone began to applaud.
I was embarrassed by the weight of attention, but I also realized that this is what our
country has come to. According to Fair Vote, voter turnout for the United States 2016
presidential election was 60.1 percent, which is low when compared to international standards,
which ranges around 70 percent for Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
(OECD) countries.
When people don’t exercise their right to vote they essentially lower their standard of
life, showing that they couldn’t care less about who is regulating and managing their country.
The right to vote allows for citizens to have their voices heard and for them to make a change, a
privilege the Ugandans I met desire to have.
As times have drastically changed due to the coronavirus outbreak, there is talk about the
effects on the election as well. At the end of April I received a mail in ballot for the special
election for the United States House of Representatives for Maryland's seventh congressional
district, instead of in-person voting. This honestly was super easy, considering all I had to do was open an envelope, fill out the ballot and send it back (as opposed to having to drive to my polling
place). But while mail-in-ballots work for Maryland, according to the Washington Post there are
17 states who would have to change their rules or require an excuse in order to make mail-in-
ballots legal for their state. With this comes pushback from citizens arguing there is a greater risk
for voting fraud and losing ballots in the mail.
As of now, the 2020 presidential election will still take place on Nov. 3, with Maryland
primaries now on June 2. I honestly believe mail-in-ballots are the best alternative the United
States citizens have for this election. While there are several plausible flaws to the system, there
are flaws to in-person voting as well. Mail-in-ballots give people a chance to vote without having
to leave their home, and it’s my belief that there could be a spike in voter ‘turnout’ due to the
ease mail-in-ballots could provide.
During these elections there will also be various seniors who will be 18, thus being able
to employ their 26th Amendment right. According to the United States Census Bureau, only
about 45 percent of 18 to 29 year olds registered to vote actually vote. This is dishonorable to the
United States and the right for citizens to vote; these votes make a difference and the right to
vote should be exercised. Whether the election is mail-in or in-person, all citizens should utilize
their right. Living in the United States gives people privileges that are not granted in other parts
of the world. At age 16 American citizens are given the option to complete their voter
registration and they should take that opportunity! American citizens are given a right that is
undeniably significant and they shouldn’t take it for granted.