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Of all the volunteer work that you have done, how much work did you have to put into getting involved before actually helping? Was there paperwork to be completed? If you were underage, you may have needed an adult with you or a signed permission slip. You may have even needed to sign a waiver about injuries. Did you have to arrange transportation with someone? Most of the volunteer hours I had on my National Honors Society application came from tutoring. It was a rather informal affair, something I was doing for my cousins. I did not have to fill out paperwork, sign away my right to sue in the case of injury, or be of a minimal age. I did not volunteer at an animal shelter because I was underage and unable to travel to it on my own.

Voting is confusing. I turned eighteen in May. Legally, I was eligible to vote in the recent elections, but I did not. Why? I was unwilling to work through what exactly I had to do in order to vote. First, I was in another state for college. This meant I needed an absentee ballot. My legal residence had changed from Ohio to New York since the start of college. My district was changed with the move, something I would have to take care of when I returned home. My friends, many of whom were voters, said it was fine because they knew voter registration could be difficult.

Studies have shown that states with looser regulations regarding voter registration have higher voter turnout than do states with stricter voter registration regulations. Why? There is greater accessibility to the vote. There is often less paperwork to complete. Voter registration deadlines change from state to state with some allowing registration on the day of elections. In South Carolina, one must be registered 30 days prior to the actual election in order to vote in the election. Much like waivers that can accompany volunteer work, the paperwork required to register to vote can and will deter some voters. Making the process easier would see more voters casting their ballots on Election Day, but regulations are slow to change.

A more recent development regarding votes is the emergence of voter identification laws. According to a paper written by researchers at the University of California at San Diego, the requirement of a photo ID can deter people from voting. But surely, in these modern times, it cannot be that difficult to acquire a driver’s license or something similar right? It is not hard at all, if you have the means of getting such an ID or already have one. The estimates of how many Americans do not have proper photo identification range from a high of eleven percent to a low of one percent. People without photo identification are more heavily concentrated in both minority and lower income groups.

While volunteering and voting are not duties for Americans, they should still participate in both activities. I tutored my cousins’ children because I wanted the children to be able to interact with their peers after moving from China. I had the desire and ability to do so, so I did. Around half of the United States’ eligible voters do not vote because they either do not have the desire to do so or simply do not know how to do so. Volunteer work, at the heart of it, is meant to aid the less fortunate and to make a positive difference in people’s lives. By voting, citizens can strive for long term or permanent change in the law by electing officials who support the same policies as they do. Volunteering and voting are two ways to have an impact on the community, but by no means should you limit yourself with these two activities.

Hava Lin is a freshman Business Administration-Management and Marketing major at Lander University. She plans to become an online business owner in the future. Lin’s column is part of Lander University’s “Achieving the Promise” project, which is generously funded by SC Humanities whose mission is to enrich the cultural and intellectual lives of all South Carolinians.