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The Importance of Voting in Shaping our Society: Why “Rock the Vote” isn’t Enough

Throughout the beginning of my school year, the issue of voter-turnout kept propping up in my studies—first, by way of my September-October topic for Lincoln Douglas Debate, phrased, “in a just democracy, voting ought to be compulsory,” and later, in our own studies in AP US Government. Much to my embarrassment, I had never been very aware of voter-turnout in the United States, except for the ever-present fact that turnout is alarmingly low and continually declining. Yet, what I didn’t know, and have reflected on in the past few months, is why citizens in the United States have not made it to the polls, and more importantly, how this directly effects the society our generation will inherit.

 

Many would believe that abstention is a direct representation of ones’ apathy or political disinterest. However, while this may reflect the rationale of some Americans’ choices, the vast majority of abstention boils down to two important factors: abstention as a means of protest, and limited access to voting. Although it would appear as if in a democracy, voting would be of great importance and widely available to all citizens of age, polling places are often found in clusters or in certain districts, and often far away from many lower-income neighborhoods. More disturbing is a report by CNN which states that “In the 2008 [United States] presidential election, 80% of adults from families earning at least $100,000 a year voted, while only 52% of adults from families earning $20,000 or less cast a vote, according to data from the Census Bureau. Married homeowners with college degrees are also far more likely to vote than single renters with high school diplomas. Older people are often more politically involved, while younger voters — who tend to skew lower in income — may not feel as tied to a community, and vote less frequently.1” One may ask why those of less privileged socioeconomic backgrounds may not cast a ballot. Some argue that this is out of a lack of quality civic education in school or a sense of inadequacy as a voter, and while these claims are certainly justified by many studies, a more likely reason is simply one of economic necessity. The United States, unlike many other democracies, has yet to implement a “voting holiday,” or national day-off to get to the polls and cast a ballot. While this concept may seem frivolous, the reality is that those most disadvantaged may not have access to transportation in order to easily access a polling place, or may not be able to get off of work in order to vote.
Additionally, as party-politics become increasingly polarized, some Americans may not feel that government officials and policy makers do not reflect their views. Similarly, in early October of 2013, MSNBC3 reported that over half of Americans—51%, consider themselves as moderates. Because of gridlock, or simply, disagreement with both candidates on the ballot, voters may choose to abstain a means of protest.
Screen shot 2013-11-05 at 8.54.28 PM4
Ultimately, raising turnout is much less simple than many campaigns geared at young voters, such as the “Rock the Vote” project, would insinuate. Raising turnout poses to be a formidable challenge, as it not only demands changes in our political system—for example, the establishment of voting holidays, but perhaps also a change in political ideology. When our last presidential election’s results were determined by a turnout of only 58.7%5, our government should be left questioning more than just using ads or campaigns to get voters ‘motivated’, but instead, be reminded of the importance of doing whatever is necessary to ensure the continuation of our nation’s status as a democratic republic. As Professor Iris Young argued in Inclusion and Democracy, complete knowledge is gained not through the meticulous selection of opinions, but rather, from the access to experience, and the maximization of all narratives. Thus, gaining access to all of its citizen’s views is integral to our governments’ overall success, and moreso, to its legitimacy. Personally, I cannot wait until this upcoming August 24th, also known as “the day when I can officially call myself ‘voting age’,” but in order for turnout to be increased and sustained, attention should be shifted from simply encouraging youth as individuals, and rather removing barriers already present in our voting system.

 

Citations:

3 http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/meet-the-moderates

4 http://www.wilsonquarterly.com/sites/default/files/styles/article_vertical_hero-380×570/public/images/gridlock_illusion_2%20(2).jpg?itok=cvPpsPAL

5 http://elections.gmu.edu/Turnout_2012G.html

 

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Posted by on November 5, 2013 in Default

 

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There’s Still a Point

yep, those are my big feet in that voting booth.

As the presidential election looms closer and closer, there are ads everywhere urging us to pick the “right” candidate for whom to vote.  However, I think the more pressing issue than deciding whom to vote for is lurking beneath the surface: young people have begun to stop voting.

All across the country, politicians, business-owners, and everyday people are insisting that young people are becoming increasingly apathetic towards the idea of voting.   A poll published in Gallup recently said, “Young people are losing interest in voting.  Just 58 percent of voters 18 to 29 years old said they are “definitely likely to vote” this November, down from 78 percent in a poll taken in October ahead of the 2008 election, and 81 percent in 2004. “

This seriously alarms me in multiple ways: first, I have a hard time understanding why young people- or for that matter, any group of people- would voluntarily choose not to vote.  Voting is how we express our beliefs as citizens, and is more effective than protesting ninety-nine percent of the time.  If we don’t believe our representatives are serving our needs as a people, we are able to nominate someone else who will represent us better.  We’re able to select who we want in our government, pushing for our needs, caring for our safety, and bettering our lives.  If people don’t vote, they can’t complain about not being appropriately politically represented.

Second, I think that to not vote is a disgraceful waste of our abilities as citizens in a democratic society.  Our Founding Fathers gave us the right to vote and the right to express our political beliefs, however directly or indirectly we choose to do so.   Reading the papers of Madison, Jefferson, and Hamilton in APGOV has shown me how much they believed in a republican society, and how much they desired that their citizens be able to vote and express their beliefs.

I’ll be eighteen this October, about a week before the presidential election.  I’ve been registered to vote since this March, and it’s all I’ve been talking about for the past six months.  I firmly believe that there’s still a point in voting, despite the apathy of some members of my generation.  No matter whom I end up voting for, I won’t be part of the youth demographic who remained silent during one of the most important elections of this century.  I’ll have chosen whom I want to represent me and serve my needs, and whom I genuinely believe will do a good job leading our country for the next four years.  For me, that’s all the motivation I need to get to the voting booth.

they want you to vote as much as i do!

 

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