I know the midterm in your next class seems really important to you right now, and it is. It’s gotten to the point of the semester when college students everywhere are taking advantage of the library and all of the caffeine that coffee can offer in preparation for their next midterm exam. The problem is, a lot of those same college students ignore an even bigger midterm that’s coming up – the midterm elections. If you’re reading this, you’re probably at least 18, and you’re hopefully registered to vote. It is important you realize that the right to vote is not something you should exercise only every 4 years.

Midterm elections are exactly what they sound like: they are elections that happen in the middle of a presidential term. A lot of people assume that if they aren’t going to be voting for the president, then their vote doesn’t matter, but they could not be more wrong. During these elections, you can vote for who you want to fill ⅓ of the seats in the U.S. senate and 435 of the seats that make up the U.S. House of Representatives. The people you vote for essentially control congress, and congress essentially controls the direction of the country. And that’s not all! There are also many local elections you may be eligible to vote in depending on which state you are registered in. For example, this year, 36 states are holding elections for governor. Local policy change dictated by these elections can have a huge effect on your day-to-day life – especially for students, when topics such as “tuition-free college” are being discussed.

This year seems like a really promising one for young people to make a change with their votes. The problem is, especially in the midterms, young people don’t actually follow through. Just because you don’t “follow” politics does not mean that politics don’t follow you. I urge you to figure out where and when you can vote as soon as possible. If you are lucky enough to be within your district on election day, you can quickly search online to see where your voting location is. If not, you are able to vote through an absentee ballot, but you’re on a bit of a time crunch. In most states, you can still apply for an absentee ballot up to a week before the elections, but you should check online to make sure. Vote.org is particularly useful website for all information regarding how and where to vote in your state/county.

It is quite possible that this message got to you a bit late. I know many students who did not bother to order a ballot because they didn’t have enough information, or they simply felt like their vote wouldn’t matter anyway. In terms of being unaware, the best thing you can do is educate yourself for the next time you are able to vote. After Election Day, there may be certain special elections within your individual state or local government in which you can vote. Websites like TurboVote.org will tell you fairly quickly all of the upcoming elections you are eligible to vote in- they’ll even send you text reminders. As for your vote being unimportant, the short answer is that it’s not. Young people especially seem to believe that their votes won’t change anything, but it is this frame of mind that keeps everything at a standstill. The only time when your vote doesn’t count is when you don’t cast it.