The 2024 presidential election will be the first time that I will vote in the national election.

Since at least 2015, I have been waiting for Nov. 5, 2024, carefully counting down the years, months, days until I could finally cast my ballot. I registered on my 18th birthday, and I still eagerly await the day that I fill out my ballot for a national election.

I know that the right to vote has not always been the right to vote as we know it, and the journey to gaining this right is drenched in blood and injustice. From women’s suffrage to the Civil Rights movement, the right to vote was acquired by struggle. This is a struggle that I am grateful for and honor by participating in my community.

On a more personal note, my family has been able to trace our roots back to slavery. Our ancestors’ sacrifices inspired my parents and grandparents to take part in the civil and labor rights movements in St. Louis. They marched, lobbied and protested to gain the liberties that I have today.

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In my family, voting is not just a privilege, but the perpetuation of a legacy — a birthright.

The presidential election of 2024 is, to me, at least, one of the most significant races in recent years. It is not so much about the candidates themselves (though they are incredibly significant to the process), but the buildup of misinformation and distrust that has accumulated over the past several years.

Though millions of election workers across the United States aim to keep voting free and fair, we continue to see anti-voting propaganda. Reflected both on social media and in real life, a wave of disinformation has bombarded the masses — from claims that mail voting is riddled with fraud to beliefs that a vote, your vote, does not matter. It is morbidly fascinating to see how this will play out during this election.

Even more interesting to me, however, is the growing desire to combat this misinformation and apathy that my generation and generations before it have succumbed to in the past few years.

The 2024 presidential election serves as an opportunity to challenge false claims and use our voices and platforms to advocate for our beliefs. Despite the imperfections of voting and systemic flaws within our political system, we must not allow misinformation and apathy, to rule over what is rational to us as human beings.

Though many focus on presidential elections, and those campaigns tend to be the most boisterous and attention-grabbing, those are far from the only elections that matter.

Local elections, too, are valuable. Local officeholders set the agenda for our communities. In a world where our ideas and opinions are more partisan than ever, it is important to protect our best interests by voting.

If you love something, you want it to become better, and one of the principal ways that we can help our community thrive and become the best it can be is by using our vote. Our vote is our voice.

Though some people think the power of it may be swallowed up with the rest of the millions and millions of votes, be assured that it sings resoundingly compared to the choked muteness of no vote at all.

Though I will be leaving in August to begin my first semester as a freshman at Dillard University, it’s very likely that I will return to St. Louis to vote in November. I prefer to vote in-person, and I would like to add my vote to the place to which I will eventually return.

So when I travel to the polls this November for the first time, I carry not just my backpack and my opinion, but the struggle, strength and dignity of my ancestors.

With my vote, I aim to continue the legacy of freedom and civic responsibility that not only my family, not only my community, but my country has been fighting for since the birth of our nation.

Franklin is a recent graduate of Parkway West High School and serves as chair of the St. Louis County Council’s Youth Advisory Council. Her commentary, sponsored by the River City Journalism Fund, is part of a series of op-eds in the Post-Dispatch this month from young local writers on the topic of voting. It will be shared at an event called Songs for Democracy 2024, a benefit for the League of Women Voters, June 24 at the Sheldon Concert Hall.

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