Essay themes: Education on good citizenship, bigger focus on issues of concern to youth, more convenient registration and voting
PEGGY L KERN
MARANDA L NELSON
AMANDA L AGUIRRE
Essay themes: Education on good citizenship, bigger focus on issues of concern to youth, more convenient registration and voting
The Apathetic and Young Generation of Voters
A significant decline in political participation is apparent in the younger generations of this country. As a result of this lack of involvement, the future of young Americans is jeopardized if they fail to make their voices heard and utilize the influence they have on their government. If the youth do not express their ideas and goals that should be accomplished by society, consequentially, the leaders of this country will strive for goals whose are not those of the people. According to the memorable and historical leader, Thomas Jefferson," Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone."(Sussman 80) The government was intended to serve the people. This cannot be accomplished if the people choose not to vote. However, there are methods to consider which can increase participation in voting and in politics among young Americans, ages eighteen to twenty-four. The key element in achieving this is to arouse the people's interest and to create a perspective that voting is indeed important. This can be accomplished by better educating the youth on the significant impact of voting, instilling strong citizenship values in young voters, improving political debate, and making registration and voting more convenient. If families, schools, and government or community leaders work together to help society and young Americans, then the United States of America will have more citizens involved in the political aspects of their communities.
Many young Americans feel apathetic towards politics. This is true because it may seem boring and/or insignificant. Spreading awareness of the beneficial impact of voting can change these views. Families, schools, and leaders can educate the younger generations, as well as encourage them to get involved in community projects. By becoming involved in their communities, young people will realize the impact they can produce in society. By becoming aware of the difference they can make not only will they realize the importance of utilizing their right to vote, but also, they may make voting a priority and increase their political participation. In addition to educating the youth about the importance of political participation, the youth can also be taught about their responsibilities as citizens of this democracy in which the government is of the people, for the people, and by the people. An important part of being a good citizen is voting. Voting determines the leaders of this country, and the leaders affect everyone's future. A known activist who agrees with this idea is Jesse Jackson. In his own words, he believes "if citizens neglect to vote, they rob themselves of their power and ability to influence government decisions and leaders." (Wolfinger 62) Young Americans who have good citizenship values will take part in voting and other events that benefit their communities and influence their future; however, it is the duty of the educators to teach such important values in order to produce a generation that cares about their society and their responsibility as American citizens.
The decline in participation by young voters may also be attributed to their preoccupation with other more important problems. If politicians have debates about issues in which younger voters have an interest, then these voters will have an incentive to participate in politics and to vote for their favored politicians. Young people not only perceive political debates to be boring, but also to be confusing at times. As a result, the youth tend to ignore the confusing arguments rather than attempt to understand them. Debating politicians should address issues that are more important and interesting to America's youth as well as present the arguments in a more comprehendible manner. As previously mentioned, the people need to be interested in political debates to promote participation in electing future leaders. Some issues that are considered significant to young Americans are as follows: drugs, violence and crime, environmental protection, peace/war with other countries, technology, education, and prices in the economy. Logically, the people who are concerned about these topics will act accordingly in order to do their part in supporting or opposing the issue(s). Once again, this will increase political participation of young Americans.
Another factor that can increase participation of younger voters is to make the registration and voting processes more convenient. Schools can distribute voter registration forms to the students who are eligible. Automatic registration is another method that is almost hassle-free for young voters. The idea is that once the people reach the age of eighteen they will be automatically registered to vote. More specifically, the Department of Motor Vehicles can add a few questions (regarding registering to vote) on the application for a driver's license. The people who intend on voting are then registered when they turn eighteen. In addition to simplifying registration, voting can be made more convenient if it can be conducted over the internet.
Currently, people can mail-in their votes; however, since voting turnouts are not acceptable, then internet voting should be considered. Not to mention the plethora of young Americans who spend much of their time on the internet may agree that this idea will produce successful results in increasing participation. In conclusion, applying certain methods to increase general interest in politics can definitely mitigate the lack of political participation. These methods are as follows: 1)educating the youth on the importance of voting, 2)teaching good citizenship values, 3)making political debates more interesting and comprehensible, and 4)making registration and voting more convenient. Young Americans alone cannot change their future. They need the guidance and support of their families, schools, and leaders. If everyone strives to improve the quality of young American citizens, then society will greatly benefit from having better educated voters to choose the leaders that will insure the future of the United States will be successful!
Works Cited: Sussman, Berry. Politics in America: Improve Public Debate. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1992. pgs.79-85. Wolfinger, Raymond. Politics in America: Ease Voter Registration Requirements. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1992. pgs.62-70.
PEGGY L KERN
Essay themes: Internet voting, making opportunities for third party candidates, reviving interest in US politics, voting age
Voting is an imperative part of American democracy; the democratic foundation lies in our ability to express our beliefs. Beginning in the 1960s and 70s, the voting age was lowered to allow young people to have a voice in American politics; however, this participation is not occurring. I believe that there are numerous reasons for this, but the important thing is that a remedy needs to be found for our democratic system to continue. Changes that I would make include creating an Internet option for voting, increasing the opportunities for third party candidates, and generally renewing interest in American politics.
The greatest reform that I would make would be to create an option for voting over the Internet. The fact that most people have access to the internet and don't want to deal with getting to the polls to wait in lines and hassle with the election process makes internet voting ideal. Absentee ballots are a wonderful idea, but it is very easy to fail in requesting one in time. The Internet would solve this problem. Internet voting would allow employers to encourage employees to vote, through giving some time during the day to vote. Furthermore, it would make it easier for college students and other young people to be involved. College students spend a lot of time on the Internet, and the ease that it would create would certainly encourage me to vote more than going to a voting place or requesting an absentee ballot would. The ease that this would create would be very important to me and those like me. For example, this past fall there was an election, but I was out of town for college. Since I hadn't requested an absentee ballot, I didn't vote. If I could have gotten on the Internet, I certainly would have voted. The normal procrastination mentality makes the absentee ballot too hard to deal with. To have the ability to take a few minutes and vote in the dorm or computer lab would be incredible. Furthermore, the instant access would be able to provide instant information about the candidates' beliefs and platforms; this instant information would be extremely important to college students in general.
Another reform that I would make would include increasing the opportunities for third parties. Our system is very exclusive, set up for two parties. There are so many varying views about politics, and the Republican and Democratic parties don't cover these varying views. I studied American government, and I discovered that I didn't agree completely with either party. However, when I registered to vote, I registered as a Republican so that my vote is not simply lost. Since I don't necessarily agree with the candidates, this encourages me not to vote. The general belief that our votes are lost increases empathy towards voting.
I would also normalize the age in which things happen. It's as if teenagers become adults in stages - learning to drive at sixteen, voting at age eighteen, and final adult responsibilities such as drinking at age twenty-one. A friend once told me that she would rather have the right to vote and drink at the same time rather than having one or the other. If a person gains legal rights to make their own choices, then they will feel closer to the system and willing to let their voices be heard.
Finally, American politics need to improve its image. Personally, the last few years have formed a very negative view of politics. The powerful position of leadership has been abused over and over again. Politicians tell voters what thy want to hear with no intention of keeping their promises. It appears that we are losing more and more control of the course of American politics. Young people need a speck of hope, something to say that their voices are important and that they can somehow make a difference. Young people are the future leaders of America. If they aren't involved, than our system will fail, thus these reforms are incredibly important. Empathy is a real problem in the United States, especially among young people. Easier access through the Internet and an increased feeling that our voices matter would increase voting. It is important that our system is reformed, or else we will lose the American dream of a place of equality. Young people are key to increasing interest in politics, and politicians really need to realize this if they want to make a difference.
Essay themes: Requiring political education, making registration and voting easier, offering incentives for voting
Mrs. Holmes-Bacon sat perched on the edge of her chair, looking at the class from over the tops of her wire-rim glasses, test questions held in "ready" position. "Hmm . . . Which Supreme Court case established that federal courts can hear suits challenging voting district apportionment?"
"Uh . . . Sanders v. Wesberry?" ventured one brave student.
"Nahh," Mrs. Holmes-Bacon drawled in her East-coast accent, a strange sound to our Arizonan ears. "The first one was actually Baker v. Carr, re-man-buh? Well, here's an easier one: The group with the lowest voter--"
"18 to 25 year olds!" shouted the entire class. That fact has been drilled into us with three different chapters in our AP American Government textbook.
Upon learning that voter turnout among 18 to 25 year olds is lower than that of any racial minority or income bracket, I began to feel a vague sense of anger. Then when I found out that a powerful group of senior citizens in our area was trying to sleaze out of paying taxes to support local public schools and actually had a chance of succeeding! - that shapeless feeling of anger began to solidify. And then when I came to the shocking realization that our government is overrun with old people who want to cut education funding, lower the amount of federal money available for scholarships, and wipe out salutary opportunities for young people, such as the Americorps program, my anger began to burn and bubble like exploding magma. The rights of young people must be protected and our voices heard. The most effective way to do this is through voting.
Currently, there are many proposed methods of raising voter turnout for young people. However, many of them are deeply flawed. For example, making Election Day a holiday wouldn't do much to inspire young people to vote. If all the shops were closed, we'd just complain about it, resent the government, and revert to our inner rebellious Mr. Hydes - "Man, there's no way I'm gonna vote now. I'll show 'em . . ." Also, Internet voting would not be a good idea because, with our present technology, there would be no way to control who's actually voting. (Mommy, look who I just voted for!) It would also make it possible for hackers to mess with the voting results and cause great havoc. Finally, statistics show that of all political groups, independents are the least likely to vote. Thus, if you have an 18 to 25 year old independent--well, these people are obviously too far gone to be helped by better ballot access for third parties and independents.
One provision that I believe will truly encourage young people to vote is requiring students to take at least one political science class in high school and college. If one is learning about a process through textbooks and lectures, it always makes the prospect of actually doing that thing infinitely more inviting. Who can resist partaking in something that one has studied about for months? Another important factor in getting people to vote is the use of televised debates. One reason that more people don't vote is that all the candidates seem the same and there seems to be no point in voting for any particular one. If candidates could be persuaded to participate in more televised debates and actually make a strong stand, they would not appear so blurry to voters and might inspire young people to vote. The public needs someone to believe in. Having more televised debates would allow the public to see a candidate's ideology and give the young people of America someone worth fighting for.
Research has also shown that the two greatest barriers to voting are voter registration and the time needed to actually vote. Voter registration is an especially big problem for young voters because it requires definite premeditation. This is a rare thing indeed among folks who regularly moan in shell-shocked voices, "That essay was due today?" Also, requiring people to register before voting makes voting a two- part process. No longer is it a simple expression of one's opinions, but--the horror, the horror!--it has become a process. And we all know scary processes are: piles of paperwork, deadlines to meet, and that constant nagging feeling in the back of your mind that "something" begs your attention. This is why election-day voter registration is needed to get young people to vote. Many people who would like to vote often forget to register in time and, thus, are prevented from voting. Implementing election-day registration would eliminate this hassle. Secondly, one-stop voting is simple and easy enough for young Americans to handle while balancing their horrendously busy schedules.
Last, but best, the single greatest change that will cause young voter turnout to skyrocket . . . free T-shirts. Anyone in the 18 to 25 age group who pops in to vote will receive a free T-shirt with their choice of several cool political sayings and a button on the front proclaiming, "Election 2000" (or whichever year it is). This will be the best advertising tool because young people are continually in need of clean T-shirts and getting a shirt that expresses one's own political beliefs always makes one feel very special. These T-shirts would also promote world peace: "Hey, you're also a 'Proud Member of Vast Right Wing Conspiracy?' Right on, brother." All the public funding that's currently being used for such purposes as "voter education" or public bulletins to encourage voting would instead be used to create these T-shirts. However, I believe the advantages gained from these shirts will be greater than the tradeoff.
Voter turnout among 18 to 25 year olds is the lowest of all groups in the nation. However, this tragedy is not unalterable. With the addition of required political science courses, more televised debates, election-day voter registration, and awesome free T-shirts--we can turn this thing around. Yours truly, Qian
MARANDA L NELSON
Essay themes: Internet voting, uninspiring candidates
Political participation by young people is plummeting. One of the best things that the electoral system could do is to begin a system where young adults will be able to vote on-line. Many of the candidates who run for office forget about the young adults that are registered voters. By ignoring us, the electoral system is only hurting itself. Also, the western half of the United States contains numerous young adults. By the time that their votes are counted, a candidate has already been chosen. The electoral system has to come up with some solution to this very serious problem. This is the main reason why the percentage of voters in the west has gone down each year. By integrating an Internet voting system, the electoral system will be helping with this problem. Perhaps making the voting day a holiday could help, but I don't feel that this would be the best solution.
Through out history, young adults have been ignored when it comes to politics. The more that young people are focused on and heard, then more young people will become active in politics. Lowering the voting age may be one very good solution to this as well. A sixteen-year-old is just as responsible and thoughtful as any eighteen-year-old. Perhaps by lowering the voting age limit to sixteen, then the electoral system will be getting teenagers involved in their government at a somewhat young age. However, this could also have some drawbacks. If any particular sixteen year old decides that they don't care who wins or not, then why should they vote. There has to be some kind of an incentive to voting. Of course we get new officers in the government, but how can we be sure that what they say for their campaigns is what they are really planning on doing. The answer is, we can't. I'm not fully sure what incentive the government can give a teenager, but they have to realize that young people are beginning to lose their faith in the American government. From Nixon's lies and Clinton's affairs, how are we supposed to know who is going to actually be a good leader, and who will use the system to their advantage? The government needs to focus on the people and what we actually want. Listening is only the first step of a long list of things that could be done to help improve the participation in politics by young people.
Candidates tell us on the television almost everyday of the race for the presidency that America's young people are what matter. Don't you think that if we actually believed that then we would be out there enmasse to vote? Our young adults have heard that phrase so many times over the years, that when we see a campaign on television, we can practically recite the entire thing by heart. All of the mud slinging and propaganda are hurting the voter turn out. We don't want to vote for someone who bashed his opponent with slurs. Where's the sportsmanship in that? All we "young people" want is for someone to actually believe in. If we don't have a candidate that can actually inspire us, then of course our participation in politics will plummet. The government is lucky that they haven't lost our faith in them completely. The young people of the 21st Century have great ideals for what they want in their lives. The electoral system can help them reach those goals by providing adequate information on candidates and what they are actually willing to do for us. From my standpoint, the only way to put a stop to the plummet of young people in politics is to offer Internet voting. What needs to be kept in mind is that we are the future homemakers and entrepreneurs of this century. How people listen to us, and actually try to help us will help us become more involved.
Essay themes: Lie detector tests for candidates, permission of only public financing of state or national leadership positions, congressional representation be bound by age restrictions
There are any number of good reasons why young people do not participate in the electoral process. There is only one excellent reason why the participation is not there. Simply stated, we (as well as our parents who also are reducing their participation) want honesty and don't feel like we get that. Consider how many times in recent decades politicians or political parties have blatantly misstated facts to service their own needs. Further, consider how many politicians use negative advertising or smear campaigns to further their own causes. This is shameful and disgusting. We are taught by our parents to be truthful and considerate of others. Those teachings instill in all of us the need to see that in others. Since we are 'electing' people to represent us, we expect those people to be as good or better than us. Think of what you see, hear or read regarding the political process now. Negative ads, party filibusters, illegal or suspicious campaign contributions, and so on. Where is the honesty in all of this. I suggest we start using existing technologies to turn the voting patterns.
My suggestions are:
In summary, I am not totally disillusioned. I am, however, angry that the same people that my parent's generation and my generation abhor are the ones passing laws to rectify the problem. Further, they congratulate themselves on doing a good job when the truth is they are participating in a sham.
Essay themes: Access to voter registration, interpreting political language, gerrymandering
Political participation is definitely a rising concern for politics in the United States. People from all over the world dream of the opportunity to come to our extraordinary country for the freedom and the many rights that most citizens take for granted. In our nations' past, we have experienced the demand for the right to vote, and it wasn't fully realized until 1964, after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s march from Selma to the capital of Alabama, Montgomery.
During this time, our nation was in a fluctuating state due to the political uprisings. I feel that even though, at the present time, political participation is declining, we will again be able to achieve that demand for political involvement. I believe that there are many ways to get the youth involved in political campaigns again. Speaking as a student, there should be a more readily available source for political access -- such as voter registration at public schools, colleges, and universities. Having the immediate access to that resource would be very beneficial because for me it is very hard to try and balance school, work, family, and then try and locate how to even become politically involved.
Another very helpful resource would be a pamphlet that translates the political information. The reason that I say "translates" is because the majority of people do not completely understand political terms. When the packet of propositions and legislature is sent out to registered voters, it could be very beneficial to insert a pamphlet to explain the information in very general terms.
I also feel that there are many problems with politics and what they can get away with in order to stay in office. Gerrymandering in a very serious problem. This entails redrawing the district boundaries to give a political advantage. The political tactic creates two very harmful problems: 1. it leads to a lack of competition, which then leads to a lack of participation and 2. this creates safe districts, which also leads to a lack of competition among parties and participants, but also among the voters.
If the race for office is not a fair and close race the voters become less involved. I truly feel that this tactic is extremely damaging to the voting decline among the youth and the rest of the United States. The lack of competition and excitement lose the attention of the people. Let's face it, does one vote really matter in a landslide political campaign? If you have two people running for the district legislature, one Democrat and the returning Republican, the Republican will most likely win because of the safe district that has been created. The district boundaries were redrawn so that 80% of the residents in this particular district are Republican, the Democrat has no chance to win.
Gerrymandering also creates a lack of interest to run for political offices. It is less appealing for common middle class people to become involved due to the knowledge of the unfair districts he/she will be faced with. This gerrymandering of the districts should be outlawed as wrong and unjust. If the district were re-drawn in a fair and reasonable manner; competition among candidates would rise, meaning common, middle-class citizens would possible run for the state legislation. Competition among the running candidates would also rise, encouraging voters to again become involved, and yes, their one vote will make a difference.
Also, the safe districts would be eliminated, which would
not allow for one political party to have control over districts.
They would have to campaign for each election. I feel that these
are some positive ways to entice the citizens of this country
to again become involved in the political society. I do feel
that outlawing gerrymandering from politics would eliminate
voters' hesitations when it comes to the morality of politics.
Society has a fixed assumption of all politicians; they lack
the morality of a decent person, they are "dirty politician"
I believe is the phrase I tend to hear. By limiting the options
politicians have for immoral political advancement, they will
be forced to listen to the wants and needs of the voters, and
in turn the voters will be forced to listen to them. If changes
are made, we can again have the political involvement of the