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Op-ed: An open letter to Aoun about voting

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Op-ed: An open letter to Aoun about voting

Alexei Matyushov

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am a proud Husky and Ph.D. candidate in the physics department writing to urge that you make Election Day an official university holiday so students, faculty and staff can be freed of obligations and encouraged to vote.

No one should have to choose between their academic or professional pursuits and their right to vote and determine our collective national future.

Eligible voters aged 18 to 29 have the lowest election participation rate at 46.1 percent in recent presidential elections according to U.S Census Bureau, and 20 percent or lower in “off-year” elections, held in odd-numbered years when neither a presidential election nor midterm election takes place.

The need for progress is more stark and urgent in light of current strains on our democracy.

Our democratic system suffers from misinformation, the rise of conspiracy theories and the prevalence of “alternative facts.”

It is palpable in the weaponization of untruths by Russian operatives who seek to further divisions and influence elections.

Analysts at The Economist recognized these facts when they reduced the United States’ ranking from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” in its 2016 Democracy Index.

These threats will only become more sophisticated.

Computing power will advance, and fake information, images and videos will become more realistic and cheaper to produce, while advanced bots or other AI tools will enable highteined proliferation.

The collegiate community is best prepared to distinguish the fake from the factual, and to bring informed voters to the polls. After all, we are a community naturally well-versed in emerging media and communication technology. We are scholars and professors, leaders of research at the forefront of our collective human knowledge and expertise.

We are well prepared to be voices of reason amid the noise.

Despite past low turnout from young voters, universities have historically been centers of activism.

It is only natural to build on that desire for democratic engagement by promoting the most fundamental civic responsibility: voting.

Establishing a university holiday on election day would ease voting for the entire body of students, faculty and staff, and encourage those who are less engaged.

We can begin changing the low turnout from young people in particular, but it will require a shift in culture.

We can achieve that if universities instill a voting culture among the millions of young people who pass through their halls.

Northeastern’s mission statement is, in part, to “create and translate knowledge to meet global and societal needs.”

Aoun, I urge you to address our need for a healthy democracy and an engaged, informed citizenry.

I urge you to establish a university-wide holiday on Election Day to empower and encourage the Husky community to vote.

 

Alexei Matyushov is a Ph.D. candidate in the physics department.

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