It shouldn’t be hard to explain why casting a ballot today is so important. If anyone ever doubted that a small number of voters could make a very big difference, butterfly ballots and hanging chads in Florida four years ago proved them wrong. In the midst of a presidential race that has left America sharply divided, few people believe the argument that there is no distinction between a President Kerry and a President Bush.

For students though, the stakes may be considerably higher this year. In part, that’s because the decisions made by the next president will shape the world we inherit. It’s easier to see why the economy matters when you’re looking for your first job; it’s hard to ignore the question of whether the military is overstretched when our generation is the one supplying the troops.

But for young Americans, voting is important for another reason. On the campaign trail, year after year, candidates focus on what they are going to do for soccer moms, NASCAR dads and grandmas and grandpas in the AARP. But there’s one group that seems to get lost in the fold: young voters. For our segment of the electorate, the question is often “Will they vote at all?” and not “How do we win their vote?” But as long as that’s the case, candidates will — with good reason — see little value in addressing the issues we care about most deeply. So it’s crucial that students show up to the polls tomorrow even in states like Connecticut, where electoral votes have been nearly locked up by one campaign or the other.

That’s why we are so excited to see so much political activity on campus — and far off-campus, too — today. Dozens of Yalies are skipping class for Kerry and Bush, traveling to battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida; others are campaigning closer to home in New Haven or in some of Connecticut’s closely contested congressional races.

Still, politics happens more than once every four years. Today’s presidential votes will have an enormous impact on the direction of this country, but other elections also matter. The Bush presidency thus far would have been far different if, say, the House of Representatives had been controlled by Democrats. If you are concerned about the quality of your local schools, the level of crime on the streets or your property taxes, your mayor or governor can sometimes have a greater influence than the person who occupies the White House.

Politics extends beyond elections, too. With any luck, we will know who our next president is by the time we go to sleep tonight. For those who go to bed happy, don’t forget to keep your candidate honest. And for those who end the night dejected, don’t surrender your voice.

So please, vote today. But when you wake up tomorrow, remember that the reasons why you cast your ballot still matter.

The Yale Daily News has endorsed the following candidates on Connecticut ballots today:

For President: John Kerry

For U.S. Senate: Chris Dodd

For the 3rd Congressional District: Rosa DeLauro

For the 93rd Assembly District: Toni Walker