A Lack of Enthusiasm is no Excuse – Vote!

This November, we have the opportunity to have a voice by voting… or according to my co-editor, by not voting.

A few weeks ago, Joe and I got into a bit of a debate, so we decided to tell you about our opinions and ask you for yours.

In less than month, we’ll be going to the voting booths to choose between John McCain and Barack Obama. I have made my decision, but it’s a half-hearted decision. There’s one thing that Joe and I agree on, and it’s that any choice we make this year in the election is a choice for the lesser evil.

Joe says that he is not going to “waste” his vote on a candidate that he does not feel is fit to lead the country. “What good?” he asks.

He views his choice between two unfit candidates as a de-valuing of his vote, and that our voices would be better heard by not voting.

I agree that it feels like the integrity of my vote has degenerated. I wish I could be wildly excited about my choice for president, but the reality of world is that in a month, the next president of the United States will be chosen, and it will be McCain or Obama.

It seems to me that there are two possible reasons that young people do not vote. The first is the one that Joe suggests—as a statement of dis-contentedness. The second is because of a failure to see or to care about the influence of our vote, a lack of motivation to change the way of the country, a disbelief that our vote has any power, or a laziness to go to the voting center. (All these reasons are equivalent in my book and are all poor excuses.) While the logic behind these two reasons is distinctly different, a no-vote is a no-vote, and I doubt either candidate will ask all no-votes why they didn’t make it to the polls. Thus, Joe, your statement will go unnoticed, and will accomplish nothing.

“I don’t see the logic in ‘It doesn’t matter who you vote for, just as long as you vote,’” says Joe. That, I agree, is flawed reasoning. Just yesterday, I scoured the library and Kehr Union to interview young people about their reactions to the presidential debate held this week. When I completed my search, I had found four, yes, four people who had actually watched the majority of the debate and were willing to comment on it. A debate is not the only way to find out about the candidates, but I took this as a clear indication of how low the motivation is on our campus to learn more than we already do about Obama and McCain. Educate yourself, then choose who you feel is the lesser of two evils, because that will put a lesser evil in office, and how can we estimate pre-election the impact that could have?

Since 18- to 20-year-olds were given the right to vote, the youth voting rate rapidly declined between 1972 and 2004 by 16 percentage points, but in 2004 that rate saw a bump by 11 percentage points, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. In 2004, 47 percent of citizens 18 to 24 years of age voted. What makes me think this is truly a new trend and not just a random spike was the high voter turnout by youth in the primaries this year. Between 2000 and this year, youth voting in the primaries increased by 17 percentage points (although the primaries data is not available from every state).

It’s common knowledge that to get candidates to form their policies around what the youth want, we must continue to improve the our participation rate and keep politicians focused on youth issues. A decision to not vote does not make a statement because it can be too easily shrugged off as just another irresponsible citizen who doesn’t take advantage of their rights. A statement is no good, when it’s taken the wrong way.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Quotes are taken from comments made by Joe on a September 23 post by Megan Angstadt, “Millennials: Will They Follow Through on their Promise to Vote?”

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