I am seventeen years old, so I don’t have the power to vote. Yet this election will impact my daily reality: whether I, as a woman and a person of color, will be able to feel safe, respected, and equal in society. It could even decide my very existence: whether I will have the chance to breathe clean air in my future, and whether my home state of Florida will exist fifty years from now.

I started college this year, and will graduate in 2024, near the end of this coming presidential term. This election places the future of my generation on the ballot. I’ve found myself often wishing that I were just eight months older – old enough to bubble in my own choice for Joe Biden. I want the chance to be a part of the first generation of American women whose right to an equal wage is protected. I want to live in a society where young people don’t have to live in fear of gun violence. I want to live in a world where immigrants and people of color are treated with human dignity, not insulted by politicians in power.

Since I can’t vote, I have tried to make my voice heard in other ways. I’ve spent many hours writing postcards to young voters in Florida. I’ve bothered my friends with dozens of texts, reminding them to register and fill out their ballots. I’ve designed email campaigns urging my peers at college to send in their mail-in ballots as soon as possible.

I have researched every issue on my parents’ Winter Park, Florida ballots: every candidate vying for office, every judge seeking retention, and every charter amendment, whether local or statewide. But at the end of the day, I’m worried. Though this election has the power to change my future, I don’t have the power to directly change its outcome.

That’s why I’m asking you today: if you haven’t yet created a plan of when to vote, how to vote, and who to vote for, take a few minutes to do so right now. And as you make this consequential decision, I want you to consider the long-term impacts of your vote. Think of the young people in your life – your friends, siblings, children, and grandchildren – and how your vote will affect our futures.

Scientific reports have shown that we have just ten years to take necessary action on climate change and make major reductions to greenhouse gas emissions. If we don’t elect public officials who are willing to listen and act on science, the future of my generation will be at great risk.

“Please vote to protect our future,” I’ve written hundreds of times across postcards for the Alliance for Climate Education’s campaign to get out the vote among college students in Florida. It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture, but voting in this election isn’t just an individual action. Who we vote for this election will determine everything from how we handle this pandemic to whether we have a fighting chance against climate change. The message of ‘our future’ and of ‘us’ is so crucial because our unity as humanity is more important now than ever. If we don’t decide to take action and stand up for one another today, there will be long-term damage done to our democracy.

There are indications that in 2020, youth voters will turn out at rates greater than before, but we can’t just take this for granted. In nearly all elections, including the 2016 Presidential Election, 18- to 29-year-olds had the lowest voter turnout of any age bracket, at 49.6%. But it isn’t because youth are apathetic or indifferent towards politics – rather, the opportunity cost and barriers of voting, as well as our historical failure to educate and engage, have deterred many from showing up at the polls and casting their ballots.

If you’re still considering whether voting is worth your time, or whether your decision will really impact anything, I want to assure you that it will. This election can be one where Americans join hands to demand gender justice, racial justice, climate justice, and equal human rights. To achieve this, though, we need every generation of Americans to stand together.  

If you haven’t done so already, please protect our shared future by casting a vote for Joe Biden. Please remember to fill out every section of your ballot – whether the race is local or national – and consider which candidate will restore the strength of our democracy and prioritize justice for historically marginalized communities. Though I won’t be beside you casting my ballot this election, my respect and gratitude will be with you.