Essay themes: Alternative election method, changing political focus on issues, accountability of officials to voters
JOHN G BALLARD
KRISTIN M. BENEDETTI
IMOGENE E BERRY
EVELYN H KIM
CARI A LONG
RICK D LORENZEN
MARISSA L MULLEN
MY P THAI
KATHERINE N VEHAR
MELINDA C WARINO
TONY WONG WALNUT CREEK, CA
CRYSTAL STEWART OROVILLE, CA
Youth are disillusioned with politics for many of the same reasons that our parents are. If lobbyists and campaign contributors did not have more access to public officials than do regular citizens; if economic democracy in the workplace existed alongside what some would call the "illusion" of political democracy; if elected officials acted more on "bread and butter" economic issues, such as the increasing concentration of wealth and the lack of health insurance for many Americans, than on expanding the prison population and on the military - most people of all ages would consider their votes much more meaningful. Some who never voted might even vote for the first time. Other forms of political participation -- such as attendance at local government meetings, involvement in interest groups, protest marches, petition-signing, and boycotts -- would also increase, as citizens discovered that the "power of the people" could really make a difference. However, barring these changes above, changes to the electoral system can also increase voting and other political participation - even though taking the influence of money out of politics, via means such as public financing, would be much more likely to change legislative priorities and address voter cynics.
Already, some young people have become much more active in politics recently. Here in California, Proposition 21, a supposed anti-crime initiative, would instead, many teenagers believe, greatly expand governmental authority to lock up their generation, particularly members of ethnic minorities. Whether or not they are right does not concern us here. What does concern us, however, is that many teenagers have responded to this perceived attack by forming groups such as the Third Eye movement and organizing youth wings of activist organizations like Critical Resistance. Young people have been at the forefront of consciousness-raising about 21 - for example, registering voters, and engaging in direct actions at the offices of those who contributed money to get 21 on the ballot. The activists on this issue are but a small minority of California youth, but their energetic involvement's a significantly change from the usual. Their activism sheds light on how participation might be improved among young people overall. P21 activism shows that when an issue is at stake that directly affects young people, they will respond. I also recall hearing of mass youth protests against 209, the anti-affirmative action initiative on the ballot in 1996. These examples have limited wider applications, but they do suggest that initiatives - about specific policies rather than Tweedledee/dum politicians - stoke more political participation. Expansion of initiative and referendum, otherwise known as "direct democracy," would thus be a good step - though only if, unlike currently, money did not determine placement of issues on the ballot and the outcome of votes on those issues. Also, information about the effects of the "pro" and "con" positions would have to be fairly and widely dispersed.
Young people should have acquired most of the education they need to make sound choices in elections by the age of 16; if they haven't, that is all the more reason why 16-to-18-year-olds need to be given the vote, to exercise their suffrage for better schools. Plus, from the example of active teenage political participation on many issues even when they don't have the vote, one can conclude that empowering teenagers with the vote would help them further in their political awakening and mobilization. Youth are already involved in fighting the WTO and on winning affordable housing for students, in addition to the issues mentioned previously. How much more active would we be if we all had the ballot?
Given this reality that youth tend to get most excited about
issues rather than politicians, alternative electoral systems
such as PR, IRV, cumulative voting, and easier third-party ballot
access, would only succeed in stimulating us if the third parties
involved were ideologically oriented or issues-based parties
rather than crass vote-maximizers. The issues of these parties
would also need to be relevant to daily life - rather than visions
of pie-in-the-sky utopianism. Many of the third parties in America
today already fit this bill, addressing issues like the environment,
workers' rights, and healthcare. In addition, judging from the
example of European democracies using PR, the presence of such
a system tends to encourage ideological or issues-based parties.
Thus, an alternative
Internet vote, same-day voter registration, and an Election Day holiday, would not, I believe, actually add new voters. Although these reforms would make voting more convenient, and would increase turnout in any given election, they would not increase the number of voters over time. Barriers to voting are not so high that a non-criminal person who wants to vote, can't.
Unicameralism - only one chamber of Congress - and/or a parliamentary system would concentrate power in the hands of the party or parties in power at any given them. While this system would allow policy to be implemented faster, the advantage of checks and balances should not be denied. Young people might become politically involved because they would have a more direct impact, but perhaps at the cost of trampling on minority rights.
Shortening the period between elections and allowing recall of all elected officials would increase accountability to voters. These changes could spur much more enthusiasm on the part of the body politic. Another move increasing accountability would be expansion of the size of U.S. House, so that each congressman represented a smaller district.
But overall, reforms within the current system, in addition to being more likely to happen, could also attack cynicism better than any of these electoral alterations discussed above. Money is power; take money out of the electoral system, and you take away the corporations' power. Then representative democracy could really have a chance to work again. As the grass-roots support for Ammiano, Wellstone, and Ventura have shown, youth will respond with energy in the instances (currently far too rare) when they perceive a candidate to be free from the corporate taint. It is that simple.
If the goal is to increase political participation, the solution
seems simple. In Australia, voting is absolutely mandatory.
If Australian citizens do not vote, they are fined. This seems
like a practical law to uphold. All citizens should be held
accountable for what occurs within their country. If they do
not vote, who will? The youth are especially responsible since
one day, they will be the ones leading the same country and
making important decisions. If the U.S. required all citizens
over a certain age to vote (with a punishment of a fine for
not voting), it would increase voting or raise money for the
government or perhaps, do both. Either way, it helps the government.
In addition, it
Today, young people are simply not very interested in politics. To put it bluntly, politicians have such a bad reputation, most youth are turned off to what is happening in the political arena. After so much exposure to media coverage concerning this scandal and that cover-up, it is difficult to trust politicians. However, the key to increasing participation is appealing to youth. More often than not, we hear about tax cuts, social security or trade agreements. All those topics are a far cry from the lives of youth. For instance, why should we care about taxes? Most youth do not even pay taxes. It is difficult to see how these issues significantly affect our lives. Many of us are very unaware of the bills going through Congress at this moment or even of the basics of the Constitution. Even most of the suggestions listed above as potential reforms (like lowering the voting age, better ballot access for third parties and independents, required debates between all candidates for office, election-day voter registration, making election day a holiday, internet voting, proportional representation, expansion of initiative and referendum, a parliamentary system, unicameralism, instant runoff voting, for single seat offices and cumulative voting in multi-member districts) are foreign to me. To amend this, the government needs to teach youth about the role of politics. Send representatives into government classes (or any mandatory class for American high school students) and teach the importance of voting. Teach us how to vote and why we should vote. Increase accessibility of political materials by sending them to schools or public libraries. Offer more programs like KidsVote. This allows elementary or middle-school aged children to experience what it is like to vote.
Having kids vote at a young age stimulates their interest in the area of politics. By establishing the purpose of voting and the routine of voting, it will increase political participation. It is essential that the government makes it clear that these issues affect us. Politicians should further emphasize education and other important areas in our lives. When a connection is established between voting and youth, we will see the importance. Oftentimes kids are narrow sighted about the future. To see the importance of voting, kids need to see the importance of education, social security and tax cuts. We need a desire to vote. We need to know the importance of one vote. We need to know the affects of our decisions. It is not that we do not want to participate in politics - it is that we do not know there is a reason why we should.
The motto I often hear today is that "life is meant to be enjoyed." For many youth, political participation does not seem important. However, to encourage kids to vote, there must be some type of reason. Unlike generations before us, the patriotism that once existed in this country is slowly dwindling and cannot be counted on to relieve the decreasing political participation problem. Mandatory voting would help solve this. Like a homework assignment, if it is necessary, youth will learn the material in order to complete the task.
JOHN G BALLARD
I didn't care about "politics." I was only sixteen; I had more important things to worry about, like school and work. I didn't realize that my so-called education was intricately intertwined with government affairs and bureaucratic opinion. My ability to choose my school and my expectation to be taught the truth were privileges, not rights. As an U.S. citizen I should desire to defend those rights, but I was oblivious to this responsibility. Indeed, I thought government affairs too tiresome to understand. That is, until I discovered debate.
Debate competitions forced me to take a side and argue it well in order to win. Suddenly new things mattered. Each new education bill proposed was a curse or a joy to me; every constitutional decision on unionized politics or freedom of speech became a fascination. Economists, politicians, businessmen, scientists, and professors were suddenly people to heed and respect. I realized that the money I paid in taxes was still my money, and that all U. S. citizens should play a part in government. My rights and my heritage as an American citizen became invaluable to me. In short, debate made me a better citizen. My story is in no way original. Surveys of young people show their interest and participation in government skyrocketing when they take up activities such as debate.
History also stands witness. The Greeks knew how to preserve their nation's integrity. One of the most important parts of a young Greek's education was his responsibility to the state, and how to protect their rights. We have traditions much richer than the ancient Greeks. Should we not value them more highly? In the time of our founding fathers, the issues of the day were resolved through public debates, and many of the common citizens could easily hold their own in political discussion. In his book Up From Slavery, Booker T. Washington spoke highly of the role that debate had in the education of the young men of the Hampton Institute. In both cases American citizens were drawn by debate into political interest and participation.
Unfortunately, apathy is all too prevalent among young people
today, and government concerns are a low priority to most. Why?
What is the problem?
First, I recommend a change in the basics required for graduation from high school. A typical required core curriculum leaves the student with little exposure to how their government works, what compelled our founding fathers to construct it in the manner chosen, and what critical issues face us today. Our current educational system does not prepare citizens to make educated choices when voting or to discern the difference between a good policy and a scam. It has the potential to provide valuable training for our future leaders. I believe we could unleash that potential, with just a few practical adjustments.
The new changes would first require a minimum one-year involvement in political debate in high school, and a second year in college as a general education requirement. Such debate could be International or Internal Policy Debate, Parliamentary Debate, or some similar form of current issue government debate.
Secondly, one year of government involvement on a local or state level would be required of students in their junior or senior years of high school and as college freshmen or sophomores. Such work might include internship or volunteer work for a local, state, or national campaign for a bill or candidate, political party headquarters, representative's office, constitutional or government lawyer or lobbyist, or grassroots political activist group. Various modes of on-campus activism may be acceptable. College students could also choose to earn credit by working to motivate and instruct participants in the high school political arena.
These first two changes would be required for public college and high school students. It is true that some public, private, and home schools have accessible debate programs, but effort should be made to provide these programs where they are currently unavailable. Liaisons between schools and political/government outlets will create easy access conducive to student involvement.
The third mandate will help get the ball rolling. A tax credit of 3% will be given to those citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 years who not only register but also vote. Local, state and federal polling locations will be supplied with federal tax return forms verifying the actual vote, and will be unavailable to those who only register. Voters will be eligible to receive this credit on all income made in the year the voter turns 18 years of age through the year the voter turns 26 years old. This policy will sunset (phase out) after ten years. This should increase the sheer numbers of voting young people, and subsequently draw more of their attention to the matters at hand. By combining the proper training in schooling with a small boost from the pocketbook, I believe the changes here advocated would make for a more informed electorate and an inspired generation who will see the need for political involvement and proper citizenship.
We know from history that if we can change the course of Americans, we can change the course of America. Just like my experiences made me a better citizen, we can and should educate the American leaders of tomorrow.
Essay themes: Make voting both easier and mandatory
As our nation proudly marches into the new millennium, apocalyptic fears and Y2K anxieties slowly ebb into abandon while our lives, our country, and our democracy remain a medley of burdensome reminders of our roles as Americans. Through continuous research of our electoral process, The National Election Studies and the University of Michigan conclude that a decline in voting since 1960 has resulted in the absence of more than half of the votes from our registered voters in the 1992 and 1996 elections. A growing distrust of the government, registration difficulties, and an apathetic indifference felt towards political issues continually encourage disinterest at the polls -- particularly among younger voters. Due to the majority of non-voters being less educated, blue collar, under the age of 30, and typically from minority groups, political power is lacking for those who require the most help from the government. Not only does this statistic display the flippancy of younger voters, it also shows how grossly underrepresented our government is becoming. In an effort to spark political interest and revive national integrity, electoral reforms must ensue. The electoral process itself has suffered a detrimental impact from the difficulties surrounding and encompassing voter registration and in-person voting. The dramatic rise in work related relocation, domestic and international travel, and enrollment in out-of-state colleges and universities substantially hinder voter interest and participation. The Motor Voter Bill that passed legislation in 1993 brought over 49 million unregistered voters into the system, as well as to the polls; yet, more needs to be done for the absentee voter. Since absentee ballots are viewed as both difficult and time consuming to attain, and twenty-somethings generally have a stronger interest in national issues and presidential elections than smaller, community oriented elections; it seems fitting to reform voter registration by offering a national voter registration with an option to register in the state of residence. Likewise, the convenience and security of online voting and registration possesses, a cost effective solution to absentee ballots, offers an appealing option to millions of internet savvy voters under the age of 30. Online voting and registration would also offer the highest level of security available. Another highly acclaimed idea is to grant national holiday status to Election Day; thus, significantly focusing voter attention. The United States is a country of freedom and comfort, so it's natural to examine each possible way the government could conform to the needs of our rapidly changing society. This method has been the primary cause for our advancement, yet this time we may find the solution elsewhere. What could cause a 90% voter turnout without dipping any further into the national deficit? Australia and Belgium have the answer: impose a tax penalty on non-voters. Both have a voter turnout that normally exceeds 95%, due to their participation in this method. Since this approach clearly has tax-like ramifications it may not bode well in the U.S., but our society needs to welcome an idea such as this; however punitive it may seem, it's for our own good.
Political awareness is an issue that has possibly offered the greatest hindrance at the polls. Lacking in current political information and indifferent to unifying our melting pot, our educational system offers a weak foundation in developing our childrens' patriotism; yet, this system feeds the condemnation for authority in which many children and immigrants are increasingly accustomed. Coupled with the dissipating integrity of political candidates' qualifications and political agendas, the future of democracy is somewhat doomed. The American public needs to hear all sides, understand each policy, know the difference between them, and faithfully cast a vote. This political degradation is at the mercy of every citizen and politician, from sea to shining sea. In essence, our goals for the American Dream can only be met by our solemn devotion for patriotic discernment.
Essay themes: Candidates appealing to the interests of young people, teens busy lives, the portrayal of politics in the media, minorities and women in politics, Internet voting, Election Day a holiday
Yes, Mom: Why Don't We Vote Contest Entry
"Get a job! We need money to get you into college! Get better grades! You need to get into a good college! Don't forget your community service!" These are everyday worries that go through teen's heads, either from outside sources or inside ones. "Change your group of friends -- they're a bad influence on you! You're never home anymore! Stop listening to that trash!" With constant pressure from parents, teachers, friends, and even themselves, the last thing a teenager wants is one more thing she or he is supposed to do! Anything that has to do with responsibility is a chore. One responsibility that comes toward the end of the teenage years is voting. Teens see voting as another chore people they don't even know are asking them to do. It takes effort and time to register to vote--time that could be spent on more immediate chores such as homework, jobs, or just taking a nap. Because youth do not have the inclination to come to the voting booths, taking the voting booths to youth would relieve some of their pressure and increase voter participation.
If the United States Government seriously wants to engage young adults in voting and participating in political campaigns, it must make several changes in it's electoral procedures. In a survey of 28 senior young women from Notre Dame High School's US Government AP class in San Jose, California, the top two changes that would tempt respondents into voting related more closely to how candidates run for office than any other area of change. Number one on the list was a request for candidates to address high school and college student problems. This idea scored very high because of the constant struggles of teenage life. The same survey given to 15 senior young men from one of Bellarmine Preparatory High School's US Government classes, also in San Jose, California, elicited the same top concern. If government isn't going to help students raise enough money to get into college, why should teens help the government by voting or being involved politically? Instead many young adults are focusing on giving back to their community through a more direct manner, service.
The San Jose Mercury News recently published a study containing evidence that community service is the preferred way of getting involved for many youth. In their second most requested change, students at Notre Dame High School expressed a desire that candidates speak plainly and carry out campaign promises in a visible manner. Busy with their community service, jobs, and school, students often see only the most publicized of a candidate's reforms once he or she has been elected to office. Bellarmine's second most requested change was to allow Election Day voter registration. This finding coincided with the fact that the boys of voting age who hadn't registered to vote yet named "just haven't got around to it" as their most common reason for not having registered.
Despite what Notre Dame women might believe, more than just a change in the candidates is needed to entice most young adults to vote. The heart of this youthful apathy lies with the media industry. Television, movies, and the evening news often portray our government officials as greedy, dirty, politicians who never say what they mean or mean what they say. Examples of this exploitation of officials' range from negative advertising among candidates, to recent movies like Primary Colors. If Hollywood and TV producers would portray a more fair and balanced view of the United States' government and the excitement of being on a campaign, teenagers might listen more and participate by voting or supporting candidates' attempts at election. Every film and TV company has the freedom of expression, of course. Changing the media's portrayal of our government is a suggestion, not an order.
Some of the other changes indicated in the survey of young women included electing more women and minorities to key governmental positions, creating a way to vote over the Internet, writing versions of the voter guides in teen language, and make Election Day a holiday. The proportion of representation in our government is askew with only six women in the Senate and very few minority representatives. This is one of many unbalanced proportions that need to be changed if young women are to believe they have a voice in the US government.
The technology for Internet voting needs to be more highly developed, but Internet voting would definitely be attractive to both the students at Notre Dame and the students at Bellarmine. Translating election booklets into teen language is a bright idea. The complicated wording of propositions is already headache inducing, but the explanations voting packets try to give are even more stressful as they fail to use student-friendly language. Making Election Day a holiday makes it appear that the students who took this survey were just trying to get a day off from school -- especially the boys from Bellarmine since they rated it third highest on their list of changes. Nonetheless, making Election Day a holiday would illustrate the importance of voting. Granted, it doesn't take a whole day to vote, but the extra time off could be spent by learning to understand what is on the ballot before going to vote, volunteering to be a poll watcher, or helping out on a campaign.
In conclusion (the two words every student loves to hear from a teacher), the United States government will have to make several significant changes in its electoral process in order to increase political participation and voting by young adults. The changes mentioned in this essay may seem like a heavy burden at first, but as all students know from their heavy backpacks, a burden only gets lighter as one gets stronger. The increased political participation by youth would stimulate the government and keep it moving toward the future instead of focusing on the past. "Now finish up that essay and go do your homework!" "Yes, mom."
Congress did not alter regulations set forth by the Constitution regarding manners of holding office until after the civil war. Before that time, it was necessary to be an adult, white male over the age of twenty-one. The removal of race and color as a qualification by the Fifteenth Amendment increased the number of eligible voters, but did not significantly increase the population at the polls. With the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, which gave women the right to vote, and the Twenty-sixth Amendment in 1971, the long-standing barriers to voting were officially eliminated. The enlargement of the electorate has increased the number of eligible voters, but decreased the percentages whom actually voted. Young people are among these low demographics. The factors contributing to the decline, or lack of voter turnout amid the younger population range from, most important, education, and is followed by political cynicism.
To be able to master the functions of our government and contribute fully to our political system, it is crucial for the citizens to be educated. Education provides the skills that are necessary to differentiate between issues, candidates, and information. Without this basic knowledge, a sense of duty and responsibility to a larger community is lost. By enlightening voters to the importance of being an educated voter, rather than enforcing the simple act of voting, we help to develop an interest in politics and most importantly, a better understanding into our political system.
While young people are plagued with uncertainty about the techniques of politics, they are inundated with cynicism towards politicians and disillusionment about the political system. Parents and the media are the contributing factors. Most parents were raised during the political unrest of the 1960's, and the turbulence of that decade caused many of them to question the authority of politicians. Since voting is learned process, young people see that most of their parents don't vote, so they don't either. The intense media scrutiny also initiates confusion to voters, with fabrications and exaggerations being reported by the press. Voters are incapable of knowing which accounts to believe, thus prompting uncertainty as to the correct candidate or issue. Young voters themselves are more susceptible to this because of their inexperience. They feel an apprehension about the effectiveness of politicians when journalists portray them as insincere and hypocritical. New voters don't feel that they can trust the elected officials, and consequently reject the election process. There is a general mistrust of public officials, and the waning legitimacy in positions by public officials produces doubt for the voters.
So, how can we get the young generations to vote? History must be taken into consideration. The period of the highest voting turnout was during the Depression, and the beginnings of World War II. The citizens then had a reason to vote, and a stake in the outcome. Another high voting turnout was the Vietnam conflict. Again, citizens had a motive to vote. The young generations haven't had a war or conflicts that directly influence them to the extent of World War II or Vietnam did. The problem nowadays is the lack of occasion to vote. We are not making as monumental decisions as our grandparents, or our parents. The young generation has been spoiled by economic prosperity, and in return is not developing the practice of voting. As they repeat the process, young citizens are able to comprehend the significant changes they are able to make, even under the most mundane of circumstances.
To be able to obtain the vote from young people, our government needs to first begin by teaching them the changes they can make by a single vote. Since less than half of an electorate casts a ballot, it is more important now for each individual to participate. If there could be a guarantee that the elected candidate would keep promises made, than turnout may increase. When elections are as close as the Presidential race of 1960, when John F. Kennedy beat out Richard M. Nixon by barely 114,000 popular votes, the need for national awareness to the importance of our choices must be expressed. It is the new generations that will change the country, but first we must shout out and allow our voices to be heard.
As America enters the 21st century, she is mystified by her youths' negligent attitudes towards suffrage. A right that their predecessors had fought and died for they now put aside as a waste of time. Reforms such as holidays, Internet voting, and lower voting age are all practical suggestions to increase the voter registration. However, they all fail to solve the real problem. The new generation is often referred to as the Y-Generation for their curious minds, untrusting logic, and rebellious spirits. Unlike previous generations, they dare to question the norms of society and push the limits set before them. They can't merely accept the tradition of voting as their mothers and fathers had. Therefore, the only way America can get its youth in the voting booths is to think like them. Today's youth must ask "Why?" Why should they take out the trash? Why should they go to college? Why should they wear this? Why should they vote? The government must answer the question of "why" before it can get any young Americans to vote on Election Day. It must draw more attention to matters that pertain to them such as gun control, underage sex, and drug abuse. How many young people care about tax increases and foreign immigrants? On the other hand, how many of them would like to see harsher penalties against date rape? Today's youth must notice the consequences of their reluctance to vote. They must be educated in the cost of the vote and the importance of their individual votes. They must see their questions of "why" be answered.
When the question of why they should vote is answered, they turn to the next question--why should they believe the candidates? Never before has the hearts of a generation been so broken and deceived as the Y-Generation. They are the offspring of a society with a 50% divorce rate. Most of today's youth are from broken homes in which not even their own parents were to be trusted. They have been molested and abused. Today, America's girls are raped by men they have just professed her undying love to. Children are taught that there are bad people everywhere. They are scared into being cautious on the Internet. America's youth sits in English class each day wondering if the lump in the backpack of the kid beside him is a gun or a calculator. These children have seen their President accused of lying in a federal court. How can people who can no longer trust their own fathers trust a person they have only seen on TV? How can they believe that a candidate will carry out his enticing promises? America must heal these broken hearts. She must enable the young people of her land learn to trust once again. Otherwise, generations thereafter will continue to ask the same distrusting question--"why should I believe you?" However, this is not enough. As children tend to answer one reply with another question, the young voters have another "why" for America. Why should I waste my time to vote? The government must also make voting more daring. America is dealing with a generation that jumps out of airplanes for fun and puncture holes in their tongues for style. America must realize she is competing with snowboarding and rave music. Checking boxes in a little room does not seem interesting in comparison. Elections must also go to the extreme, just as skiing and clothes have. The youth wants to see candidates who are on fire for what they believe. Therefore, the risk of voting one way or the other is increased. However, today's candidates play it safe, trying to please everyone. However, in their game of "nice" politics, they are boring the young voters. Politicians must throw their strategies into a new direction. They must learn to risk and prove the youth their genuine enthusiasm for a cause.
Then, voting will not be considered merely checking a few boxes, but become a defiant stand for one's beliefs. To please a group as strange as the Y-generation is a difficult task, but not an impossible one. America must step into the dirty sneakers of today's youth and think like them. She must answer their cries of "why." Why should they vote? Why should they trust the candidate? And why should they waste their time? Why? Americans must change the way we vote in order to adapt to the new society we live in. Mankind has made many leaps over the past few decades. Americans now shop on the Internet, talk on cell phones, and cook food in a microwave. The way of life has changed drastically, and so must the way we vote. Only then will America see her children run into voting booths to eagerly carrying out their God-given right of suffrage.
Essay themes: Education
A child's world is simply himself and the few people he associates with on a daily basis. As he grows older, it gradually begins to expand, but it takes far too long for most of us to truly care about what is going on in our local and national governments. In the United States, participation by everyone, including youth, is essential because this country was founded on the 'by the People, for the People' concept of democracy. If young people do not become active and express their opinions, our policies will inaccurately reflect the views of the majority of our citizens.
Getting youth involved with the government would benefit everyone because by the time a person reaches the voting age, he will know far more about what is going on and will care enough to go vote. Lowering the voting age, however, would not be effective because several years are necessary for a young person to become accustomed to the system and familiar with laws and policies. In general, I have observed that youth are some of the most opinionated and headstrong people when an issue comes up. However, the first place we think to go to for help or to protest is never a body of government. Confronted with an issue, a young person is more likely to write to a popular magazine or to Oprah than to a representative or our President. The government does not connote a welcoming, readily available place to look to for help, and yet it was formed for its citizens' benefit. If youth began to turn to the government with their ideas and views, it would usually be an important contribution. So where can we begin to change this image of politics and the government to help get more youth involved?
The two main things that need to be done are to first of all, get youth interested in what is going on, then provide more ways for them to get involved and with the assurance that it would not be useless if they did. Throughout elementary, middle, and even high school, I have been taught that history repeats itself so we should learn about it to make sure past mistakes do not occur again. Still, I was skeptical because how could we turn back to slavery, segregation, or the greed to expand and take over more land? Last year in my U.S. government I finally began to see a connection as my teacher paralleled each history lesson to a current issue: President Nixon to our current president, the Korean and Vietnam Wars to our involvement in Kosovo, etc. History finally began to seem real and vital, and I finally began to care about politics and what is going on in our government. This system of relating history to current, popular issues seems like the best way to spark an interest in young people. By not just memorizing dates and places, but also analyzing situations and determining what would have been the best course of action, youth will be more prepared when they look at what is happening today. Hopefully they will see the possible outcomes and have the desire to push for the best one.
While watching the State of the Union address on the twenty seventh of January this year, I heard several issues that were of some interest to me. If students could listen to these political speeches that address so many issues it is likely that they will be able to relate to at least one. Maybe students could make a list of all the matters addressed in order of importance to them, which would force them to think about their values and priorities for the country. Once youth are interested, it would not be hard to provide ways to let them participate in politics. If many of us wrote to our representatives and political leaders, they would take our ideas into consideration and care to get our attention whether we can vote or not, simply because we are involved. I have heard of young people helping in campaigns, which is a major way to not only participate and be able to think about possible candidates, but also to become interested in the whole political process. Youth can encourage older friends and relatives to vote in every election and, once we are old enough, we can vote ourselves. If we know more about an issue than others do, we can influence campaigns by spreading our knowledge and preferences on which way to vote. Attending political events such as inaugurations that are open to the public would both get youth interested and provide a way to participate. Visiting various court cases would get people interested in the judicial system of the government. The best way to keep up-to-date and involved with politics is to start with a strong base of knowledge about the United States system and its past. Then, pay attention to every campaign by listening to debates and speeches, and listen to news of all other national concerns. If I become more involved in politics today and in the future, I will have expanded my impact on the world, and I will be able to be content with my achievements in life. My top priority is to leave the world as better place than it was before I was born, and the best way to do this to make the biggest difference and have the most influence worldwide is to become more involved in politics.
Essay themes: Political parties collaborating with students, media and political awareness
Michael Jordan on a political advertisement, wow it is Air Jordan. During the basketball game came on a winter Sunday afternoon, the former Chicago Bulls' star looking directly into the camera and talking about Bill Bradley. He declares his support for Bradley based on his commitment to health care for children, curbing gun violence and other issues. "It's a place where every family has good health and no family suffers from the tragedy of gun violence. It's a place where every child has a bright future, and where skin color or eye shape doesn't matter anymore. It's a place where you can be proud to be an American."
"It's time for us to believe in something that will give every American an opportunity to succeed, and be viewed equally. That's why I'm supporting Bill Bradley for president. Shouldn't you?" This is a very persuasive ad campaign. For the millions of teenagers and adults that "Wanna be like Mike", this might bring in their votes for Bradley. If not getting a vote for Bradley, some people exposed to this campaign will want to see why Jordan endorses the presidential candidate and do some research of their own. Through this political awareness of the candidate, the researcher will inevitably see the opposing views of other candidates and become conscious of the major constituents of the presidential election. As political participation by young people is plummeting, the young political neophytes should be exposed to the different benefits of our democratic system. There are many groups involved in the pivotal steps to bring politics to youth, but the bottom line is to get the word out.
The democratic system is so priceless that individuals should be taught the value of their contribution. Eighteen-year olds are usually found in the many high schools in the United States. Each political party should make themselves accessible to the many budding adults via different schools. When the parties go to these schools and establish relationships there will be a collaborative effort of the schools and the parties. The political parties will become involved in different school functions and the students will relate to the causes as time goes along. "After the rally there will be pizza party sponsored by Students for the Republican Party in the Bayside Gym." With the participation of the political parties, students participate in the system and learn through their experiences. In the case of Bayside School, the students collaborate with the Republican Party and organize a pizza social. Through this social, students and politicians will have a chance to spread the message of their ideology in respect to politics. Students will walk away from this event and know something they had not known before. If the ideas presented to the students sound beneficial then they will be prone to participation. More and more will realize the potential of the ideas and a natural grouping will form of youth with common beliefs. Students look more towards mentors for guidance. Many teachers fit this role for the youth of today. Teachers must become aware of responsibilities they have sharing with children benefits of involvement in the political system. When a teacher gets a jury duty notice, he/she should discuss his/her part of the democratic process of government by contributing as a juror. This good example will in turn foster the young minds to become politically inclined.
Media plays a large role in disseminating the message of different political factions. A very large percentage of Americans do not know all the existent presidential candidates, such as grass roots campaigner Alan Keyes. Citizens can benefit by becoming aware of all the candidates so it is the obligation of media services to present these to them. Media can support in some way to bring politics into awareness. Television and Internet use for news is increasing and these mediums can be used to target potential political participants.
A good way to learn is by example and political parties, teaching institutions, and media are important examples for youth to learn from. The minority voters, youth, can collaborate with political parties to propagate the ideologies of the political systems. Mentors and teachers can be good role models and represent the democratic system we must take part in. The media is also an important role player in the dissemination of politics because of their presence in the households of many youth. With the conglomeration of these groups a political paradigm will be established for youth to bring about more participation in the electoral system.
EVELYN H KIM
One of the biggest concerns that is being brought to light in this election year, has been the lack of political involvement among the 18-25 age group. However, the main reason that they do not feel like they are part of the political system, and in truth, is that they have not had enough time spent in the "real world." In this case, we can define the "real world" as an environment where one is a participant in the work force, paying taxes, receiving health care benefits, and most importantly making independent choices. However, we can increase the political involvement of the young, by making these changes: (1) Create contemporary American political courses taught from grade school, incorporate new media (internet) to promote interest and access to current news, and make students familiar with the election process by holding virtual elections at schools.
As noted, the obstacle that many young people face is not realizing the effects of political leaders and how their decisions truly affect our lives. It is important to have students as early as grade school, learn about current events. In today's educational curriculum, many students do not study contemporary politics until high school, or even at the university level. It must be a part of the educational process, beginning with the first grade and progress through their education, like their math and English courses. After all, if a child's only source to political issues of the day is in the evening news, they are most likely to prefer other entertainment programming, or the Internet.
The new media, or the Internet, should also be embraced as a tool to teach our young potential voters, rather than just another distraction. Currently, many political candidates use personal web sites to promote their candidacy, and as an information tool for potential voters to obtain information on their biographies and campaigns. Although it is unrealistic to believe that we will some day have massive participation on a daily basis, because we have the same lack of involvement among older apathetic voters. The ultimate goal would be to make the information more readily accessible to young people, and have them actual participants in the electoral process.
Lastly, elections often have a low turn out level because young voters often feel that it takes up too much time, and that their vote would be irrelevant. To combat this feeling, we need to make Election Day a major day for pre-voters as well. Schools should encourage in-class discussions regarding the issues that the candidates are debating, and debate those issues in class. It is important for young people to get passionate about the issues, so that they vote. One will always be more likely to that vote for themselves, because they have a desire to be a participant in the system, rather than voting for just another politician. Therefore to develop familiarity, the fact that one cannot vote until they are eighteen years of age, should not prohibit schools from holding mock elections on major legislation and political candidates. To reinforce this, schools should seek out political candidates and representative in the local and nationwide arena to make appearances, hold campaign rallies, be guest lecturers, and hold town meetings. These are just some exciting events for students that could create a desire for involvement, and an interest in political issues.
We must realize that it is a huge task to have young people passionate for our political system over night. However, it is a process we need to start immediately beginning with grade school children. That is why we need the school's promotion but parent involvement as well. Parents need to watch the evening news together, and discussing the issues as a family. After all, we also need to be concerned about the lack of interest among the youth in pursuing governmental roles. It used to be everyone's dream for his or her child to become president of the United States, but now the goal is to be the next C.E.O. of an Internet startup and become the next Bill Gates. For these reasons, it is imperative that we involve our youth in politics at an early stage, and recreate the passion that had existed decades ago.
Essay themes: Feeling of powerlessness among young potential voters, making voting more fun and easy, the problems of capitalism
As we begin a new century and a new millennium, the future of the country lies in the hands of the nation's youth. While many might hastily brush aside the competency of these youths, the "Y" generation has the highest mental capacity of any generation. In today's information age, children learn more quickly. The sponge-like brains of our youth soak up the knowledge that surrounds us. The nation's youth are promising, but lacking in one respect: enthusiasm for our government. Who can blame them? Our nation has become one of apathy and injustice, where even our children are not safe. Shootings ring through the halls of our schools, pornography breaks though the firewalls of the Internet. Our children have far much more to deal with than their parents ever did, or ever will. It is not surprising that this generation lives in constant fear, feeling powerless to stop the cycle of violence and corruption that leads all the way to the White House. This feeling of powerlessness is what prevents the young from voting. To increase the feeling of power and significance among the youth would vastly increase voter registration. Each person needs the confirmation that his or her vote really does count and that one vote can truly make a difference.
One of the many reasons that many believe their vote doesn't make a difference is the electoral process. Many people do not understand how the Electoral College works and would rather have something less complex. If popular vote decided the election, more people would vote. They would see the raw numbers, something they can relate to, instead of electoral votes from each state.
While the information is out there, people just aren't looking for it and certainly are not attaining it. Youths do not know what is going on unless it involves the Backstreet Boys or N'SYNC; politics is not exciting enough for them. After all, who wants to see a bunch of older men sit around and brown nose to the American people? Politicians, at one time in our history, used to be respected and admired. Over the years, the respect has vanished into a thin layer of dust. When those who make our laws and represent us in Congress cannot be trusted to make good and just decisions, the nation is left in turmoil. Divisions in the highest branches of the government cause the entire nation to be divided. We are left with a nation full of single individuals, not one of complete and solid unity. Our nation is filled with people who feel completely and utterly alone in their lives. As a people, we feel tiny and insignificant; we measure our worth in dollars and cents. Capitalism has taken over for democracy. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening. As the gap gets more and more immense, the rich get more powerful and poor become more helpless than ever. Capitalism is tearing our nation in two. The power must go back into the hands of the people. It is understandable the American people feel as if they have no power, they truly do not. Give the power back to the people and they will again show a great interest in the nation's political life.
This year, two states have tried something new to increase voter registration among its citizens: Internet ballots. Citizens may vote online for added convenience. Voting is simply not convenient enough. In California, one must register twenty- eight days in advance for an election. Shortening the registration deadline to one or two days before the election would greatly increase the number of voters. Changing the day of the election or allowing more than one day to vote would also greatly increase voting. Many people cannot make it to the polls during the workweek because of busy schedules and hectic lives. Although absentee ballots allow those who cannot make it to the voting booths to vote, many people do not send away for them. Again, the apathy of the nation takes its toll. Making voting more fun and worth while for the American people is key to increasing voter registration.
Reforms will not drastically change the numbers at the polls. The change must take place in the minds of the American people before any reforms can have any bearing. America's youth must first begin once again, to care about our nation. Then and only then, can the reforms made take form and breathe life into the system of government. When people start believing they have the power to change society through their votes, their beliefs will become reality. The problem is not in our system, or in our youths, but in ourselves.
Essay themes: Showing young people how the government affects their lives, requiring registration
Suffrage has been a major issue throughout United States history. The most recent change to the nationally voting population being 18 to 21 year olds receiving the right to vote. With this younger population being given this right, it would be assumed that this brackets voting percentile would soar, however voter apathy has extended recently to this group as well as the rest of the voting population. This younger, newer population feels that they cannot make a difference, and it doesn't matter what they think. However, many of today's major political issues will have profound impacts on this younger generation. At the top of this list being healthcare, Medicare, and Social Security. Social Security funds for example, are believed to deplete much more rapidly than previously predicted. This affects the younger voting population, including the present generation as well as future ones. The main cause of voting apathy among this younger population is their obliviousness to the impact issues like federal funding has on them. It is no surprise that without incentive there is a lack of motivation to get to the poles. Nonetheless, is it a lack of motivation, or ignorance and unawareness? The latter is a likely reason for disappointing voting turnouts.
The complex United States government and economy affect the entire population, regardless of age; young voters must embrace this fact and get to the poles. To appeal and motivate the younger population, they must be informed and made aware of the severity of the consequences of nonparticipation in voting. Important issues must be presented to their full severity to this younger generation. Back to the issue of social security, and health care, this younger generation needs to be asked these questions: Are you saving x% of your income for retirement? Do you have 401K or IRA fund set up for retirement? Do you have a company matching contribution system setup? There is no guarantee that you will be able to retire and receive substantial enough funding from the government to support your retirement. If issues such as these are presented to this younger generation in this way, then it may serve as a wake up call. That wake up call would be that many of today's major issues affect the younger population currently, and the ones to come. If voting among this group is not increased now, how is it expected to increase for future generations? Too many individuals take our Democratic, for the people by the people, form of government for granted. It is privilege to be entitled to an opinion, and to be able to voice that opinion at the polls.
Perhaps too, young voters are frightened or turned away by the voting procedure itself. Maybe they are not aware of how simple it is. Here in California for example, all it takes is to fill out a registration card and mail it in. When an election is held one simply goes to their precinct and casts their ballot, it's that simple. A solution to this problem could be to create legislation that would require all 18-year-olds to register to vote, as they currently make 18-year-old males register for selective service. Although quite radical and controversial in nature, the long run benefits of decreasing voter apathy among the younger population would be more than worth it. It wouldn't harm anyone to require all 18 year olds to be registered voters. This wouldn't guarantee that those who are forced to register actually vote, but it makes it easier for them to vote because they are already registered.
Through these possible solutions it is hoped that voting will increase among the younger voting population. We cannot allow our country to fall away from our strong Democratic roots, and if action isn't taken soon to increase voting among the young that is exactly what will happen.
Essay themes: Voting age, candidate morality, campaign tactics,
Secondly, would be the consideration of candidates and the rules that apply to them for running for any such office. A first set rule should be that the candidates should be campaigning for themselves and to show why THEY are eligible for the position with experience, etc. Living in California, it was observed with disappointment and disgrace watching the political candidates for Congressman, Senate seats, Governor, and several lower positions. The main tactic was noticed to be the candidates "attacking" each other; likewise they would pull up past information on the other candidate and slander it against them through multiple methods of communication. These tactics would allow such candidates to be mainly applying by popularity on status quo that the other opponents weren't able to do the job because of such and such past incidents. Most voters however find it yearning to find as in USA Today (November 1999issue) that the 535 members of the United States Congress hold the record of,". . . 29 have been accused of spousal abuse, 7 have been arrested for fraud, 19 have been accused of writing bad cheques, 117 have bankrupted at least two businesses, 3 have been arrested for assault, 71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit, 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges, 8 have been arrested for shoplifting, 21 are current defendants in lawsuits in 1998 alone, 84 were stopped for drunk driving. . ." This leading to a clearly seen rule, that in order to be a leader and ultimately the representation of this country, that should hold practically a clean record. Young people throughout our country are bathed in this knowledge as we must hear of such scandals like Whitewater or of the Bill Clinton/ Monica Lewinsky investigation.
The last topic to be covered is representation of the people for their leaders. Most local and state leaders are purely by popular vote, however the subject with the most interest is the position for the office of the President of the United States. The confusing matter of the "electoral college" and the "popular vote" is in the belief that a voter's cast ballot could mean nothing because of the possibility that the Electoral College can overrule such a vote. As a young person, such proposition would be discouraging as with young lives full of education, jobs, or other responsibilities, voting would only be a waste of time. The satisfaction that it is part duty of an American to be sure that in order to be satisfied that they vote and have their given say is barely enough to balance the other belief that one vote in millions will not make a difference. In this age of politics and voting, the Electoral College is obsolete. Presidential candidates only choose to gain the most "electoral" votes because of the fact that that is all they need to win. The system of a state choice system in which the electoral college is, could also be considered unconstitutional as it blocks the representation and guaranteed right of the people to vote; thereby selecting the leader by their popular vote and not by the certain delegates that cast the electoral votes for the states. Learning throughout their age of education about ones constitutional rights, young people are fired up at such age to use such rights. To learn of such dampening fixtures can easily dissuade anyone that there is no time worth in using those rights.
The above examples and discussions are just a few, but perhaps most effective, ways to help incorporate a higher voting trend among younger people. The ability to attract more of the younger age voters to the voting booths is a difficult task. Time constraints and certain locations make it difficult and have been helped by voting by mailing and perhaps voting online. In the end, a younger person can still be only attracted to voting with reasons that would personally effect them. After all it is a right to choose to vote or not to.
Essay themes: Voting age, voter education, influence of campaign
financing, third parties
lowering the voting age in all elections, national, state, and local to 18, in all states. The earlier the young can get involved and participate fully in our democracy the better. Good habits developed at a young age will be a strong foundation throughout life.
Young people aged 18 may be drafted into the armed forces, and, in some states, are deemed old enough to drink alcohol. If a young person of 18 is old enough to die for his or her country, he or she should be considered old enough and mature enough to vote to decide who will lead the country in the 21st century. Young people need to be given adult responsibilities, in recognition of their adult capacities. The required level of standard courses in high school these days requires a much more complex level of thinking and analyzing than was true 20 years ago. In this computerized age, the intellectual and maturational development of the young has been speeded up in an ever-increasingly competitive environment. Giving 18 year-olds the right to vote is simply an acknowledgment of their advanced intellectual development and ability to handle the intellectual responsibilities of voting. It also encourages active participation at an age where the youth is not totally caught up with career and post-college endeavors. This will allow more attention to be devoted to exploring the candidates and issues in a particular election and, as a direct result, encourage greater participation in the process by young people.
require mandatory courses in elementary, junior, and high schools that focus solely on the importance of voting and participation in the electoral process.
The importance of voting and actively participating in the electoral process, whether in supporting a particular candidate or espousing a particular issue, needs to be strongly emphasized if youth are to reengage and become active in the political process. What better way to prepare youth for this responsibility than by making mandatory specific courses that focus on the importance of voting and the electoral process?
alter the common perception of the electoral process (and of politicians) as money-dominated and special interest group-dominated, and consequently, as essentially corrupt, by changing the rules of the electoral process at the national, state, and local level by limiting funding of elections solely to public sources, in equal amounts for all candidates and proponents and opponents of issues. It is critical that the electoral funding mechanisms be changed to alter the present extremely negative perceptions by the young (and adults) of the existing electoral system.
Funding changes in the electoral process are without doubt the most important and critical means by which the attitudes, perceptions, and participation of the young in the present electoral process might be altered in a positive, more engaged fashion. Too often, the young witness multi-millionaires apparently trying to "buy" elections to local, state, and national positions by simply tapping into huge family resources. One California candidate recently spent in excess of $26,000,000 of his own money in an attempt to win a United States Senate seat. Forbes and Trump have leaped into the race for President of the United states primarily on the basis of their wealth and skill in accumulating more wealth. George Bush has a huge lead in the polls, and is attracting a lot of support, in large part due to his well-oiled fund-raising machine that has accumulated millions more than his competitors.
Young people also need to believe in the representative nature of the system, i.e., that all will be represented equally and fairly, not just those interest groups that contribute large amounts to finance a particular representative's election or reelection.
(4) the private lives of politicians should remain essentially private, unless private actions impact directly on the governing or electoral process in a negative or corrupt way. Constant and persistent airing of "dirty laundry", as exemplified by the coverage of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, is demoralizing and degrading to young people, and serves to promote an image that most politicians, even the President of the United States, are liars, cheaters, unethical, stupid, and corrupt. Is there any wonder that young people have turned away from participation in the electoral process in such an environment? Self-preservation, self-respect, and even a modicum of self-esteem would seem to require youth to withdraw
(5)allow those who consider themselves to be "independent," that is, not aligned with either the Democratic or Republican parties, to be able to vote in either the Democratic or Republican party primaries and in other local and state elections. Some states restrict this right, and by so doing, discourage people from voting independently of either of the two dominant political parties.
(6) encourage political participation by the young in high school by giving them community service credit for activities devoted to helping a candidate or an issue in an election, such as by canvassing, mailing envelopes, etc.
Essay themes: Internet voting, election day registration
One of the great paradoxes in our society is the fact that as suffrage has been granted to more people, fewer people have exercised their right to vote. With passage of the fifteenth, nineteenth, and twenty-sixth amendments came many advancements, ensuring, those who had previously been denied, the right to vote. Yet voter turnout, counting only those registered to begin with, has steadily declined. One of the great successes of our nations electoral past occurred in the 1896 election with an amazing eighty percent voter turnout, while in 1996 only forty-nine percent of the adult population voted in the presidential election. The differences between then and now are numerous, but the fact remains that Americans, especially young Americans, do not overwhelmingly participate in the electoral process.
Voting is perhaps one of our greatest responsibilities to our country and to ourselves. Democracy is based on majority rule and equality, if not event the majority of citizens vote how can America serve as an example of democracy. As citizens of the same country it is our civic duty to participate in the future of our country, by electing those we feel will do the best job. Not only is voting important as a determinant of tomorrow's policy, it also has the power to affect the future twenty years from now, especially when considering far-reaching economic programs.
The decline in voter turnout overall can be attributed to many factors. As society continues to quicken the pace at which it functions, people are taking on too many responsibilities. Busy schedules provide numerous excuses, which in many cases are true. Besides not being able to find the opportunity to vote many people are skeptical, convinced their vote does not matter. The truth may be that a single vote cannot decide an election, but there have been many instances in our history in which a handful of votes made a difference, for example, in 1948 Lyndon Johnson won a race for the United States Senate by only eighty-seven votes.
The decline in political participation among young people
is especially prevalent. In 1996, the United States Census Bureau
found that only thirty-two percent of those under age twenty-five
voted. Voter turnout among the young has dropped for the same
reasons aforementioned, but also because of a lack of interest.
The best way to increase political participation among young people is to begin at the root of the problem, interest. To create genuine interest in the candidates and what they stand for is the first step. Today publicity is the subconscious driving force behind everything we do. The Census Bureau is currently spending millions on its campaign for the 2000 Census. Their effort is likely to provide a large pay off, increased participation. The federal government should invest in airtime encouraging citizens to get registered and vote. Another solution would be to require debates, making candidates take a stand, causing people to identify with their favorite candidate. The problem with already existing debates is the fact that they are optional and that they are televised in enormous blocks of airtime. The smartest thing networks and the government can do to increase viewing is to divide the debates into a few more nights, only broadcasting an hour or two at a time. But these ideas are superficial. To solve the problem requires a more thorough improvement. Voting needs to be made more convenient, removing the obstacles and excuses.
The greatest indicator of whether or not a person will vote is if they are registered. To begin, voter registration should be made more convenient. The government has already taken measures to simplify the registration process. The 1993 Motor Voter Act has allowed eligible voters to register when applying for a driver's license or a renewal, but that has not proved to be enough. On sight registration would increase turnout much more drastically. Also, making Election Day a national holiday would surely make people more available. With work out of the way people are able to get to the polling places. One of the best possible solutions is Internet voting. Young men are able to register for the Selective Service online, why not cast ballots with the click of a button? Bringing voting into the home would make it more convenient than anything else, it would also save the cost of filing the paperwork from the traditional ballot. There are many solutions to the problems affecting voter turnout they need only be enacted.
As we approach our adult lives participation in our government should be one of the most important tasks on our minds. The world is becoming smaller and more interdependent, thus we should be voicing our opinions now, more than ever. Issues outside our boundaries are often uncontrollable, but as a major power we often step in after-the-fact to piece lives and countries back together. Domestic issues, welfare, healthcare, and social security to name a few, and our role in the world today are equally important and it is our responsibility as young adults to lend our ideas. Not every one of us may be heard individually, such a feat would be impossible, but voting for someone whom you share similar beliefs with is nearly as powerful Without helping to shape policy, we have no right to criticize decisions; therefore it is imperative we take up and active role in our own futures.
Essay themes: Increased political education, required debates,
Election Day registration
One reform can take place in the junior high and senior high schools. Schools should be required to educate youth about the propositions and the candidates that are being voted upon in upcoming elections. Most young people do not watch the news or read the newspaper daily. This makes it difficult for them to learn about the candidates and the issues of the election. The extent of the information they get about a certain issue could simply be the 30-second blurb of facts from a television or radio commercial. Increasing the information available to young people about the issues at hand would drastically increase voter turnouts. More people would develop opinions on the issues and would feel passionately about them, which in turn would encourage them to vote so that they could take part in the process and support their opinions. Also, increased information would make voting appear less intimidating to young people. Because they would be educated about the issues, young people would be more confident in their opinions and less worried about making a mistake, choosing the wrong candidate, or having to choose any candidate at random.
Another beneficial reform that would increase voter participation would be to hold required debates for all candidates that are running for office. Debates are useful because they give voters a sense of the character of the candidates, the candidates_ positions on the issues, what issues the candidates support the most, and how they are able to present themselves and communicate their ideas. All of these components play a part in the decision of a voter to pick a certain candidate; if debates are required, more information will be available for voters. Televised debates would make the information even easier to receive because almost every voter in the United States has access to a television. Again, more information that is easily available makes the voting process less intimidating, which makes it easier for young people to vote.
The most effective reform at increasing the political participation of youth would be establishing election-day voter registration. If this were possible, many more young people would be eligible to vote. Currently, a voter has to be registered a certain number of days prior to the election to be eligible to vote. Many young people forget to register or do not even realize that they have not registered to vote until it is past the deadline for the upcoming election, which makes them unable to participate. Election-day voter registration would allow those young people who want to vote but are not registered a chance to participate in the decision-making process of the government of their country.
Making voting less intimidating and more attainable, reforms that increase the amount of information available to young people and that make it possible to register to vote on election day would drastically increase political participation by the youth of America. Young people would not be discouraged to vote and would be more confident in supporting their opinions.
Essay themes: Open access for third party candidates
There is an old saying that says, "If voting could change anything, it would be illegal". People do not vote because they do not believe that their opinion can make a difference. They watch the election campaigns, and they see the candidates ducking it out with one another, but the audience knows that it is just an act. There is no two party system in this country; only a fool would think that choosing between Democrat and Republican makes any difference. Even though the candidates may disagree on certain issues, the bottom line is that both parties ultimately cater to corporate interests despite their promises to look out for the common man.
What can raise the public out of their jaded apathy? What will make them believe in a candidate's promises? What will drive them to the ballot boxes? It is hard to say. I think that one of the most exciting parts of an election is the third party ballot. The libertarian party and the green party are positive and innovative alternatives to the two-party rhetoric. One of the objections I hear from people my age who do not vote is: "I would vote for a Libertarian/Green party candidate, but they would never get elected anyway." Unfortunately, this is very true for senatorial and presidential elections. While there is almost always a third party candidate on the ballot, one barely hears of them unless they have the money to play the politics game. Ross Perot garnered a fairly large share of votes in the 1992 election for a third party candidate, and the reason being that he had the cash to propel himself into the main arena.
The sad truth is that every year compassionate, thoughtful, and honest men and women run as a third party candidate, but they do not get the same coverage as the Democrats and Republicans because they do not have the money. A solution to this problem would be to put a ceiling on campaign contributions. If there were a limit on how much funding a candidate could receive, eliminating all loopholes for additional cash, then all candidates would be able to campaign on a more level playing field. Instead of using money to build up their images and get their messages on television, candidates would have to actually take their messages to the people. Also, if they were only allowed to accept contributions from private donors, then that would help curb the candidates' tendency to lobby for corporate interests. Most importantly, if news networks and papers had to guarantee every major candidate equal and unbiased coverage, voters would see all of their options more clearly. The key solution is to grant third party candidates the same respect and importance as the two party candidates, so that they may be taken just as seriously. If some of these measures could be implemented, third party candidates would have a real chance of winning bigger elections, and young people might actually believe that their votes could make a difference. In order to have fair elections, we must allow each candidate to speak unhindered by how much money they have. If this country is truly a land of equal opportunity, then every candidate should have their say, regardless of the class to which they belong. I believe that young people will be more inclined to vote when they really believe that the issues they hold dear will be recognized. Giving the third party candidates the same prestige, coverage, and opportunities as candidates from the two-party system would inject an exciting alternative into the election campaign, and would make young Americans feel like voting can truly change things.
Essay themes: Effects of government on the lives of young people, required political education, Internet voting
Johnny just graduated from high school last June and he is attending college this fall. He was required to take a one-semester government class during his senior year in order to graduate. He took the course, read the class textbook once in a while, did the work, studied for the final exam and got a B. Johnny is a typical 18 year-old, United States citizen, who is considered by the Constitution, since 1968, to be an eligible voter. He has completed his secondary education and is legally mature enough to participate in our country's public elections. However, he has not take the time to register yet, and even if he were registered, he probably would not vote. Young people like Johnny have very little interest in the political process and voting. They do not understand the importance of their vote. Voting is believed to be time consuming and since no political party ever campaigns to young people it is assumed that the controversial issues being addressed at the polls do not directly concern them. The reality, though, is that something has to be done in our electoral system to stimulate young Americans voting behavior. Young Americans have given up their right to vote and they refuse to politically participate in public elections.
It is evident that the primary reason for young people not to vote is the lack of importance that voting has to them. Young people, aged 18 to 25, tend to be in the majority, concerned with things other than politics. Members of this generation of non -voters argue that they do not have the time, nor the desire, to educate themselves on every single issue presented by our government. There are various reforms, propositions, and public offices that require young Americans to vote. Nevertheless, there is not a great input from political parties to motivate and reach youth voters. Because traditionally young people do not vote, candidates and their political parties do not demonstrate interest to obtain young Americans' votes. Campaigns tend to be specifically designed by and for an older generation of voters. It is not often that we hear of a political party mobilizing young voters, politically educating them in a way that is interesting to them, ensuring that they are registered, and getting them to the polls.
In addition to the lack of motivation provided by political campaigns to attract more young people to vote, low voter turnouts are also the result of the election day voting system and the issues that are being referred to. It is true that registering to vote in recent years has became easier than ever; however, taking the time to loose a day from work or school, and walk into a voting booth is still a hassle. It is a hassle that young people refuse to take. Young voters do not even identify with the issues on which they are voting. The great majority of them do not own any property, have no investments or businesses to protect, and they simply don't care to vote. In the 1960s when the Vietnam War was taking place the issue of how soldiers were going to be drawn to fight in the battlefield, sent young voters to the polls. Various reasons can justify young Americans for not wanting to participate in the country's political process. But no reason is strong enough to hide the reality and the magnitude of the problem that results from our immaturity and irresponsibility as citizens of this country. It is important to understand that political participation by young people is fundamental in all public elections. There may be issues, which do not directly concern us at this time, but it is a fact that we will eventually grow older and reforms not voted on may in the future affect our lives and our children's lives as well. Young people tend to overlook that any laws enacted into the Constitution today, will continue being executed ten, twenty and a hundred years from now.
It is imperative to practice our voting right today to assure our tomorrow, but we have to do it so that Congress and the leaders guiding our country take in account young people's needs. Because they have seen our political participation plummet, they are beginning to eliminate reforms such as Affirmative Action and are failing to increase college grants and decrease loans. Congress knows that education is no one's interest but ours, and since the majority of us has decided not to deal with politics, they have no interest in securing our interests.
Significant changes in the United States electoral system should be made in order to increase political participation by young people. Government should implement a program in every high school that requires seniors not only to take a one-semester government class, but to go deeply into the real issue of politics. Government officials should work directly with high schools' administrators and teachers to come out with a program of study that provides the student with political information, the importance of voting, the issues being addressed in the local, state and national governments, and the registration's voting procedure. This program and any textbooks created for it, should be carefully designed so that they can approach the students in a way that is interesting to them. It is essential that this type of program take place while students attend high school, because by the end of their secondary education many young Americans do not continue with their education. The only way to make sure that they are informed and prepared to walk into the voting booth is to educate them.
In addition to implementing this program, making Internet voting available would considerably increase youth participation in politics. If there was a way to make Internet voting easy and secure the young people turnout would increase because voting wouldn't take much time from their schedules. Furthermore, if political parties took the time to design campaigns that would approach young voters in the United States and they made sure to refer directly to them and the issues that relate to this population of young Americans, better results may also be encountered.
Young voters in the United States have lost interest in participating in politics. They do not realize the significance of their votes. But if we think about this, government and political parties are not doing much to change their low participation rates. Reforms and innovative programs have to be established in order to send a greater percentage of young voters to the polls.
Essay themes: Voting Rights for ex-felons, candidate targeting of youth
Political participation in elections by young people is not high, and it is getting lower. Young people between the ages of 18 and 25 have mixed agendas. Also the participation of young people in these age groups is greatly affected by the communities they live in and their life circumstances. There are many reasons why young people are not voting in California and around the U.S. Among the group of non-voters there is a large group of young black men between the ages of 18 to 25, many have criminal records and many are felons who lost their right to vote. Also another reason why young people don't vote may be that the candidates are not targeting them as an audience. There are two major groups of non- voters the ones that aren't interested and the one that simply can't vote. In these two areas major change needs to take place to enable the participation of young people in the elections. There is a large group of black males that lose there right to vote before they are even registered voters. Statistics show that there is a large number of Black men between the ages of 18- 25 that are in prison. Once a convicted felon he no longer has the right to vote. This is ridiculous because prison is supposed to rehabilitate its prisoners so that they can come out and live in society. What is the justification in being in prison serving your time and coming out rehabilitated and not receiving the right to vote. In California there is the three strikes law. Many young Black American men have been trapped by this law. Due to this law upon the third criminal offense hard time is the punishment. There are many young men in the communities of Oakland and San Francisco alone that have lost their right to vote before they even registered to vote. This eliminates the participation of a large sector of people. There is always new legislation about welfare, prison, education, and affirmative action. Black men between the ages of 18-25 that are ex-felons are exempt from voting they are greatly affected by the laws and can not do anything about it. Another problem that keeps young people from voting is that they don t feel like the issues concern them. They don't see what voting would benefit, because the candidates are not targeting them as a potential voting audience. The issues that are discussed in electoral debates don't interest them and really don't concern them. Candidates don't really make it a point to introduce their campaign to high school seniors and college students. The message is not getting to our age group, to grab our attention so that we will vote. Our attention is grabbed once there is a city curfew for all young people, the age to get a driver's license is raised, when minimum wage is decreased, when welfare is limited to a five-year plan, and there is no affirmative action. Once when soliciting votes in New Orleans, Louisiana I came to a part of the community that was considered to be a rest stop. I was told that there was no need to go door to door in this neighborhood because most of the people could not vote anyway. I didn't believe it so I went door to door. The neighborhood was made up of young families and it was moderate to low class living conditions. I went door to door to solicit votes each young man I saw I asked to vote, and I explained how important his vote was. He responded by telling me that he understood, but he was sorry to tell me that he couldn't vote, but he would take the information and pass it on. After having similar conversations with several different young men, I asked why do most of the men in this neighborhood say they can't vote? I received my answer that they were unable to vote because majority of the men in the neighborhood were ex-felons. After hearing my answer I was highly upset, because I realized that these men living in this neighborhood did not have the right to vote into office anyone that could better their neighborhood, they did not have the right to vote out of office anyone who was not trying to better the condition of their society. They were forced to live in a society under circumstances that they could not vote for legislation to change. To me this situation is very sad. I believe that if ex-felons as a sign of their rehabilitation received the right to vote and candidates targeted young people between the ages of 18-25 as a potential voting audience than there would be a large increase in the number of young voters. I suggest doing these two important reforms through legislation. There has to be some revisions made in the law to enable the ex-felons their right to vote. In order to make the young people a grater target for the campaigns is something that the candidates must add to their platforms. If young people are treated like a potential voting population than they will vote. These reforms will make a difference in society. The young people are the next generation of leaders. Through the reforms many bills and laws that are made and passed would not make it to be past because those that it greatly affects are voting against it. New reforms in education, affirmative action, minimum wage... would be voted in because the people that are most affected by it are making up a large part of the voting population. These two reforms for me and the society I live in would be a great benefit. The impact of increases voting from young people ages 18-25 would be felt nation wide. There is no better group able to vote in or to vote out the future than the group that is the future.
Essay themes: Discussion of potential voting reforms, including
proportional representation, instant run-off voting, and lowering
the voting age
Tomorrow, start a riot until your ambitions are fully expressed. Rationale check! First, one has to follow and use this bureaucratic form of government properly. You may write the President, and he may force it to be addressed. You may write local senators and representatives, and threaten to not reelect anyone in office until Direct Democracy is discussed and in effect. Then, our good men and women of the Supreme Court will have to declare it unconstitutional or apply good dynamic judgment and vote for the people. We have seen in our own countries history, that when a case that does not serve the people, like Dred Scott vs. Sandford 60 U.S. 393 (1857) equals Civil War and in-turn will cause over 50,000 American on American casualties in the single battle of Gettysburg alone. Oh? And if you are not a people person, then allow me to inform you that 5,000 horses died in that battle.
One of moral excellence does not want the death of any living creature. One of moral excellence would like to see Indirect Democracy expire. Let a Direct Democracy begin to work for "We the people". Start and sign a partition. The power of technology today will support an American Direct Democracy system and I hope you will too. God Bless America. End of topic. "Essays are 600 to 1,000 words, no exceptions."
Now words about Political participation by young people plummeting because or education is plummeting. The resolution is to pay the teacher more than the politician. A Direct Democracy will change our electoral system will increase political participation by young people. People, much like myself feel that they can represent themselves and vote best individually. Potential reforms to consider include, but are not limited to: lowering the voting age. This is a horrible idea. Potential reforms to consider include better ballot access for third parties and independents. I do not understand why it was not always an open ballot. Potential reforms to consider include required debates between all candidates for office. I would expect them to raise the question of, "Why do we not just have more debates if that is what people want?" Have you ever heard an intelligent person say "They debate too much"? Potential reforms to consider include election-day voter registration. Why has not always been this way? Potential reforms to consider include making Election Day a holiday. Who would complain the most? Potential reforms to consider include Internet voting. So long as it is secure, what more of a private booth could one ask for? Potential reforms to consider include proportional representation. Proportional representation dates back to 1870. It is an electoral system designed to represent in a legislative body each political group or party in proportion to its actual voting strength in the electorate. Is it better than what we have? Potential reforms to consider include expansion of initiative. The idea of initiative was founded in 1793. It is a procedure enabling a specified number of voters by petition to propose a law and secure its submission to the electorate or to the legislature for approval. All petitions should be addressed properly. Potential reforms to consider include expansion of referendum, the 1847 principle of submitting to popular vote a measure passed on or proposed by a legislative body or by popular initiative. I support this. Potential reforms to consider include instant runoff voting for single seat offices. How many elections are held to decide on earlier one that has not resulted in a decision in favor of any one competitor? Potential reforms to consider include cumulative voting in multi-member districts. Do not be a multi-member district. Voting directly on all topics that our Senate and House of Representatives handle today is the answer to a better government tomorrow.
Essay themes: Education, abolishing Electoral College, targeting youth, keep the voting age the same, Internet voting
Why Should I Vote? You can't drive your friends anywhere for the first 6 months of having your license. There are age restrictions on music and movies ( even though we still have to pay the adult price at the theater to see Toy Story 2). Schools harass you for your pants being a bit long or for wearing tank tops ( that's so immodest!) in 90 degree weather. People criticize and stereotype teens because of a few bad apples like the Columbine boys. These are just a few of the reasons why young people are not taking part in politics, it seems like the whole country and government is against them. Teens today have twice as many restrictions as they did thirty, twenty or even ten years ago. The feeling you are being chained to childhood while still expected to acquire the habits and attitudes of adults is enough to turn anyone off from taking part in anything " grown up". After all, if the adults do not know which way to raise you, how should you?
Another confusing thing for young people is the language of politics itself. Government class is only a semester in my school and that's not really enough time to be expected to go out and vote for the well being of your country. There are wolves on television portraying the government as animals and then there's the very real life situation of overcrowded schools that make it seem like all you have to do is vote yes and the government will magically walk in and reduce your class size. However, they don't tell you that in order to reduce class size they will have to raise taxes (no one wants to pay anymore than they already do).
The Electoral College issue is another thing altogether. This is the most discouraging thing I have learned this year. Your vote does not really matter because when it comes down to it, the final say is in the hands of government. I think this should be abolished so a vote is a vote and is the only determining factor in an election.
The key to grasping young people's attention is to make them feel like they and their vote matter. Hence, unicameralism is clearly not the way. Politicians talk at kids rather than with them. They also only discuss issues concerning adults. So when it comes to voting young relations are confused because the issues don't apply to them. This is a prime reason why the voting age shouldn't be lowered because chances are, if people are not voting now, they are not going to at sixteen either. Voting needs to be seen as a privilege rather than as a waste of time.
I feel that if more time was spent in researching government and politics during the high school years, more people would feel confident enough to take part in elections. I also feel that making Internet voting possible would allow even more people to vote since everyone is so busy nowadays with their jobs, families, and hobbies; Internet voting will make the whole voting process much easier and encouraging to the average bustling American citizen. The funny thing about people is that while they are complaining and moaning about the injustices of the system, they do not take the time to try and change it by voting or anything. These people also don't realize that their vote could be the final say in a future law or regulation. These couch potatoes, in my opinion, are the reasons why our government ends up figuring everything out for the country by themselves. Knowledge is power and if the government provides it now, then the future of our country will be in the hands of well-educated and well disposed citizens.
Essay themes: Third party involvement, open debates, mandatory education
"The Future is Now"
In time, we the young adults of America will be the parents, leaders, and counselors of tomorrows youth. Since the aging of man is inevitable, we must be actively involved in the political atmosphere of America, in order to continue in the tradition of our forefathers, and make life better for ourselves and our children. So, how can we get the people of our age involved? Obviously, the system that we are using now is failing. I say pick it apart and rebuild from the base. My ideas concentrate around the people between 18 and 25.
First, I believe that we should do away with the selective service requirement when registering. It has been my understanding that many potential young voters fear war and fear enlistment; therefore, they do not wish to add to the possibility of being drafted by registering to vote. There should be an option of being placed into the selective service or not. A second way to increase voting would be to eliminate the calling of college-aged individuals for jury duty if they are attending college. I myself have received a summons for jury duty that was during my scheduled classes at school. When I attempted to call and explain why I could not attend, I found it aggravating to have to defend my education as though it was a better idea to be a juror than be at school. On a larger scale, I think that the biggest reason why people do not vote is that the issues that pass are tied up in numerous appeals and litigations, and may take months before they are active. Additionally, many people feel that their one vote does not count.
Therefore, I propose that when an issue is voted on, it goes into effect immediately, and all appeals or further discussion must be put on hold for a specified period of time. Both sides argue that an issue will or will not work, so why not let the winning side take a crack at it? If an issue passes and does not do well over a period of time, than it is tough to argue that it was the best choice. If an issue does not pass, those that wanted to see a change can always come back and try again. Time is the best determinant of whether an issue will work or not, so it seems to me to be a good idea to let some time pass. Making someone realize that their single vote does count can be a tall mountain to climb. Therefore, it is in the best interest of a person to surround themselves with others who believe in similar causes and issues to help bolster their knowledge that they are not alone and that their one vote with others is mighty. My idea is to mandate a Civics or Political Science class for all graduating High School Seniors. In this class, they are to dedicate a period of time to work on an election campaign or with a group who supports some issue that they choose. During this time, they must be actively involved and turn in signed forms by a manager or leader of the group to show active participation. They must also complete a final paper describing their experiences and present a speech before their class. If this is not completed, they will not receive credit for the course and will not be allowed to graduate. College level students should also be required to participate in a similar style pre-requisite course that ALL majors have to take.
On a national level, younger people are unaware of the events of the day. We always here of Republican and Democrat candidates, and on occasion, other parties. Why should the candidates of smaller parties campaign in silence because they do not possess the almighty dollar? Their platforms may be very reasonable and may make them very capable of winning, yet they are forced to sit back and let the larger parties simply roll them over. A solution for this would be a series of group forums that all the candidates of all the parties can attend and answer questions from a panel and from the audience. Each candidate would have a three- minute period at the beginning to introduce themselves and their platform in the way that they seem fit. Once the questioning has begun, each member would be given an opportunity to answer each open question in a given time limit. When the audience is given the floor, there would be a limited number of questions that each candidate could be asked, and all must be asked the same number of questions. If the audience does not have a question for a particular candidate, the panel would ask one.
Finally, all candidates should have the right to challenge another to a debate. When this occurs, they should be given national airtime so that anyone who wants to can listen. These ideas will help strengthen the platforms of candidates who might go unnoticed for the most part in an election. My final proposal deals with election day. Too often, despite all the forewarning and reminders, some people forget that it is election day. Therefore, I propose that their be more than one day. Having two days to cast your vote, and having it on a weekend would make it easier and more convenient to vote. For students, you could also provide a voting station on each major four-year university; that way those students who don't have a means of transportation do not have to hunt for their voting site. Getting others involved in a cause does not have to be difficult; we only need to find the right persuasion and then apply it as best we can. Together, we can work towards greater involvement with the youth of today in politics and in participation, so our tomorrow can be even brighter than in our dreams.
Essay themes: Education, increased transparency of language and candidate information, eliminate Electoral College
Encouraging the Young to Vote
What causes young people to ignore their right to vote, a right that is considered priceless in many other countries? Well, when elections seem confusing, meaningless, or deceptive, potential voters decide that it is not worth their time to research and vote intelligently. Political apathy starts in high school. High school government and civics classes teach how our government evolved and the purpose and function of the three branches. Unfortunately, there is little emphasis placed on the importance of the individual vote. On those occasions when it is discussed, many questions may be left unanswered because some of the teachers are apathetic about voting and election results. Teens are left to conclude, 'My vote doesn't matter, so what is the point'? Student body elections are supposed to be a first taste of the ballot process, but everyone knows these are just popularity contests. Empty promises are made by the candidates because the power to follow through is lacking. Therefore, students are just given a title. Why should it be any different in the real world as well? So, what can we do about it? My brother, who is now of voting age, anxiously looked forward to voting in his first election. He had a high school teacher who often discussed the power of the individual vote along with our precious right to do so. My parents have instilled in me that, if you don t exercise your right to vote, you have no right to complain about who is in office. My mother told me about her high school holding an annual mock Democratic or Republican convention in which the entire senior class participated. She remembers this weeklong event as a fun and unique way to experience first-hand, and come to appreciate, part of the political process. She has never missed a chance to vote since. More high schools should develop programs to increase political awareness in an interactive manner such as this. Beyond high school, a new voter may look forward to his first election, that is, until he receives his voter's guide. While perusing the propositions on the ballot, the young voter may quickly grow discouraged by the confusing language and the sheer quantity of material to be read. Since 85% of the literate population are skimmers and won't bother to read all of it, we are left with an uninformed mass of voters. Now add to the dilemma all the misleading advertisements backed by special interest groups. The result is a voter who makes his best guess at the polls. What we need are simpler explanations made by a neutral party for each of the propositions up on the ballot. When voting for local city and county officials, it is helpful to have a candidate's written statement in the back of the pamphlet. Right now, this statement is an option employed by only a few office-seekers. Since most voters are unfamiliar with the names on the ballot for positions such as judges, school boards, and hospital boards, these statements may be the only information we have on which to draw our conclusions. It should be mandatory for all candidates to submit a statement about their backgrounds and assertions. As it is now, I would never vote for someone who cannot even bother to write a simple statement as to why they are running for an office. The young voter often bases his selection of major political candidates only by what he sees in television and newspaper ads. Much of the time it seems that the vote is just between the lesser of two evils. In order to make an intelligent decision, we need to see how all the candidates think on their feet. There should be several mandatory debates between political opponents, both live and televised. These might contain questions from a combination of journalists and common folk. Give us the opportunity to make intelligent decisions based on these unscripted encounters rather than all the negative ad campaigns. Finally, why should anyone bother to vote in the presidential election, when our votes don't even count? This will hold true as long we keep the outdated Electoral College in place. Most people, young or old, are either unaware of this voting system or do not fully understand its implications. At one time, it was necessary to send delegates to cast votes on behalf of the local citizenship, however this is no longer true. Elections for every other office are held using the one man, one vote method, yet, we are not entrusted to vote for the most important political figure in our nation. Why not? If this antiquated system was changed, young people may be more inclined to vote because they would feel like their individual vote really counts. Before teenagers even reach the voting age, they need to be given a reason to vote. One of the best ways to do that is to have elected officials who exemplify the best of the political world. These men and women would be role models for young people who might one day wish to aspire in government capacities. Give us qualified candidates and simple, direct access to the information necessary to make intelligent voting decisions. The result will be informed voters taking pride in their role in the election process.
Essay themes: Open ballots, promote Internet education, campus voting
Everyone's Vote Counts
Elections are characterized by low voter turnout, especially by young adults under the age of 25. There are many reasons in which registered voters do not vote at elections. Is it because they do not have time or because they are divided between the parties and their issues? Which characteristics and institutional barriers are associated with non-voting, and what can we (the American public) do to solve the problem? For many people registering to vote is difficult. It takes time and is often confusing. As voter turnout gets lower, registering to vote gets easier and less confusing. Secondly, election turnout is skewed toward the higher-class status population. Many people feel left out of voting because they have not graduated college or even high school and are not on top of the financial ladder. Even so, this is not true, if you have a clear criminal record and are an U.S. citizen over the age of eighteen, you can and should vote. Lastly, many people feel as if elections do not matter, that their vote doesn't really count. People often feel that they have to take time away from their busy schedules to vote on things that in the long run won't even be to their advantage. Many people do not understand the political system and comprehend that their vote is worth something. Everyone has to overcome these institutional barriers and vote. On the other hand, there are also many demographic characteristics associated with non-voting. Many people are divided between parties and their issues. They are indecisive and feel as if they have to pick a side. Many people don't want the stress of doing research on each candidate ad finding out where they stand. Secondly, many people do not agree with our extremely demographic society. They feel that by not getting involved in politics, they are making a bizarre yet strong point. Many also feel that they should not vote for issues and candidates that they do not agree with. I have many theories on how we can solve the voting problem among the younger population.
The key word is EDUCATION. Many students do not take the time (most of the time because they are too busy) to really know how our government works and what is going on in the present. Although many courses in junior high and high school stress past historical events, few focus on present day issues and candidates. More teachers have to spend more time explaining how important it is to be educated on these issues and show how their vote really does matter. Since I am currently a college student and realize that time is a huge obstacle, I think that it would be great if the resources became made available for young adults to vote on campus. It would give them a chance to become involved and would be convenient for them. Another suggestion is to make resources available throughout the Internet. Since many people under the age of eighteen are already on the Internet, it would be wonderful to go to a web site in which they could learn about political candidates and other issues going on in the present day. If there could be a possible way to get voting through the Internet, many more young adults would vote. Not only would it create complete privacy but it would also be hassle free, educational and convenient for them. They could vote when they want, how they want and for whom they want.
Lastly, I do not believe that there should be closed voting. I often think that many times people are in between parties and although they may lean toward one side, they might not want to vote all one way. There should not be constraints on who or what people vote for, regardless of their political party. Its unfortunate, but many people think that their vote does not matter or count. It is not rue, because every vote counts. By getting involved and voting, people are voicing their opinion and instead of sitting back they are actually trying to change the U.S. and make it better for themselves and their families. Individuals must learn to overcome all the obstacles that are associated with voting in elections, and vote. We have to educate the young and on our political system and allow them to realize that it is never too late to take a stand. Hopefully, in the near future there will become an easy, hassle free method of voting. As a young individual myself, I long for the day when elections in the United States are characterized by high voter turnout, especially among young adults. It is time that we all join together, regardless of class, race, ethnicity, sex, gender or political preference and come better way to get more people to vote. As individuals we can only do so much, but together we really can make a difference and change many things that are happening right in our own backyards.
Essay themes: Voter apathy and disenfranchisement need for
community interventions to encourage involvement
However, my involvement within the Beltway reinforced my profound belief that every individual has the opportunity to play a significant role in the vitality of his or her government. Whether it is a Majority Whip pushing his party members to win a vote, a suburban mother rallying for a local candidate, or a sixteen year old assistant sorting envelopes in his Congressman's office, the people can-we must-continue to serve as the underpinnings of this democratic republic. As voting is the most fundamental method of political participation, it is vital to explicitly convey the necessity of individual involvement to younger generations. The population of eligible voters ages eighteen to twenty-one has the lowest voter turnout of any demographic, while constituting the core of future growth and leadership. Society must work to assuage this tide of ensuing political lethargy. In the tradition of Aristotelian philosophy, we must return the center of political activity to the community. Moreover, we must engage the youth, sparking a resurgence of enthusiasm with regard to democratic participation and the relevance of politics in their daily lives. At the onset of the nation's birth, the seat of governmental participation resided in the soul of New England town meetings. Citizens recognized the presence of government in their lives and passion stemmed from an active role in such proceedings. In today's society, the political establishment has molded into an abstract persona impalpable to its constituents. By revitalizing the local political arena, a tangible illustration of its significance may again be attained.
In fact, legislation should be passed mandating the implementation of community oriented programs which target the interaction of young people with key political figures. The government should encourage the discussion of politics and current affairs within the classroom. By introducing controversial issues, students thrive in a forum facilitating debate and open thought exchange. Political campaigns should be offered incentives to visit local schools and community organizations. A live debate between candidates would afford young people an opportunity to inquire on issues of concern in their lives, reinforcing their capacity to affect change. On-campus organizations such as Junior Statesman of America and Model Congress should be funded, promoting vehicles with which to hone political consciousness. In essence, we must harness the fragments of lingering idealism so as to instill an intrinsic affinity for participation within future generations.
Yet, to merely address the structure of the political system is to neglect a significant underlying dilemma-the reformation of character among those individuals who comprise the political establishment. Younger voters yearn for someone to respect-of who one would be proud to call "President." They are increasingly non-ideological, turned off by traditional politics and seeking leaders who speak in a fashion which connects to their lives. Indeed, to seek the vote of younger generations and likewise their subsequent participation in the political arena, politicians must first seek to reevaluate the manner in which they conduct themselves. Adlai Stevenson said: "The government is like a pump and what it pumps up is just what we are-a fair sample of the intellect, the ethics, and the morals of the people, no better no worse." If we are to maintain our participatory democracy, it is imperative that public service is again perceived as an honorable venture. My eyes have opened with those elevator doors as I hope to prime that pump, for we must not yield to apathy, but rather fuel ourselves with the ingredients worthy of a necessary idealism.
Essay themes: Internet voting
The result? Internet voting. In an age when every college kid has a computer right in his or her dorm room, how could you make it any easier. As a college freshman, I see that, throughout the dorm, there are at least twice as many computers as televisions, newspapers, or even magazine subscriptions. In the bubble that is college, the best link to the outside world is through the Internet, which is one click of the mouse away.
The point: To get busy young people to not only care about politics but vote on them as well, it needs to be easy for us to do so. Just "dotcom" it and we'll be there. Of course, there are major security issues involved with voting online: People will attempt to fake their identities, vote more than once, etc. Realistically, though, the genius out of silicon valley can surely create an elaborate scheme to outsmart the average Joe and keep voting fair. As in anything, there will be those that can crack the codes but these will be in such small amount that I doubt very much they would make a huge slide in the popular vote without exploiting their own wrong doings.
The only real problem, then: We need to make sure that the young people that are voting are not just flying blind and voting like they're playing a game of roulette. Again, through the use of the Internet, we need to make candidate information easy to access. The voter handbook needs to be available online. Current debates (or at least summaries of them) need to be broadcast...anything to help us make an educated decision. Sure, there's a lot of information already on the web in regards to politics. The problem, though, is that the imaginary spider continues to add more and more "dotcoms" each day, making the web larger and more elaborate, more difficult to navigate through and to find what one needs to find. If we are truly serious about getting young people to vote, we need to put links to political information sites on the sites that young people would normally visit. Sites like espn.com, eonline.com, varsitybooks.com, etc. could all be outfitted with those advertisements that normally appear above their pages. This time, though, these advertisements would be links to political news.
The last issue reverts back to the first one: apathy. No matter how easy for us a site is to access, we will not waste our time unless it at least grabs our interest. Now, for most of us that have reached at least a respectable level of maturity, we will be able to stomach a boring profile of a candidate since we possess the knowledge that it is just necessary if we want to be educated voters. Others, though, need a more flavorful approach at reaching us such as adding some clever comedy or marking the site with cool color schemes and 3D images. Something aesthetically pleasing tends to hold our interest much more because we are intrigued and therefore able to read on. In the nineties, the Internet became a wonderful way to find just about anything. Now, in the new millennium, it is time for us to use the "dotcom" to get young people voting, and to start making a difference that will last into the future.
Essay themes: Voting convenience and accessibility, third
party involvement, education
To begin with, the actual act of voting needs to become more convenient and accessible. I have voted by absentee ballot several times because my schedule as a working student often does not allow for me to access the voting booths on election day. However, in this age of computers and the Internet voting via Internet seems like the next most logical and convenient step. Not only would it cut down on paperwork, but it would allow more young people to participate. Many of the excuses that you hear from young people about why they didn't vote (I couldn't get to the polls, I didn't know where to vote, I didn't have time) would be solved with this solution.
Another important issue is that of affording better access to the ballots for third and independent parties. An excuse that I often hear not only from young people but from adults as well is that they don't vote because they feel like they're choosing the lesser of two evils. Just because you're not a democrat or a republican doesn't mean that you would not be a good president. (In fact, George Washington felt that the two-party system would ruin America). Although the two- party system is important, most young people feel a need to be able to vote on issues and not along party lines. Allowing additional qualified candidates access to the ballot would make people feel like they have more of a choice, and not like they were having something forced upon them.
Most importantly, the issues involved on a ballot and where candidates stand need to be clearly defined and readily available. As a registered voter you get all of that information near or on Election Day. If young people had Internet access to their local issues or a publication was made several weeks in advance of the election it would make them feel more compelled to get involved. There's nothing like realizing exactly how an initiative will affect your life (in a positive or negative way) to make you want to get to the polls and vote. I went to high school in an area with many retirees. The voting demographics were consistent with national trends-most of the participating voters were older. Our high school was desperately crowded and in need of renovation, yet the bond measures that us students were involved in consistently failed. Many of the retirees felt that they no longer had children in school, and they didn't know (or care!) what the conditions in the school were like, so it was more important to them to save on their property taxes. I didn't understand how we had so many recent graduates and their families still living in the area, yet the measure still failed. It was because the young people, the ones who knew the best about the bad situation in the local schools, were simply not participating.
Voting needs to be more convenient and modern to appeal to young people. We need to feel like we have an actual choice in who we're voting for and what issues are on the ballot. And, the key to getting young people to vote is knowledge of the issues and how they will affect our lives.
Essay themes: Increasing education on politics and political issues
Many feel that political participation by the young people is plummeting. I personally feel that this is so because not many of the young people are aware of what is going on. We do not vote because we do not have enough knowledge of the political campaigns to know what we are voting for. For example, a couple of my friends and I recently saw a sign saying, "Yes on 22 Protect Marriage." The general reaction by us all was that at first we had no clue what it was about. We all looked at each other and asked if one of us knew what the sign meant. After all of us said that we had no clue what it meant, we all just shrugged it off and moved on to another subject. We did not even have second thoughts on the issue. That must have been how other people who did not know what the sign meant reacted. They must have been curious at first but then stopped caring after awhile. I am 17 now and am going to be able to vote for a new president this year. I would like to vote, but the only thing that is holding me back from voting is the little knowledge that I have of the political campaign. If I had more knowledge of the campaign, like who is for what and who is against what, than I would be more encouraged to go vote. Because I know so little though, I might be voting for someone who might turn out to be the worst president ever.
The television station, MTV, is already doing something about this issue. It has come out with a show called "Choose or Lose 2000" to help the young people in preparing them to get ready to vote. It is a show that focuses on the young generation and it shows both sides of the campaign. Not only that, it discusses issues that would concern the young crowd. Making a show that is interesting to watch yet informational is a huge step in reaching out to the young people to get them to vote. This is one of the ways of making the young people aware of the political campaigns and their issues.
One other way that the campaigners try to reach out to the young people is by coming out with commercials supporting their side. Discussions in class with the student's teachers might help a little. Mailing out little pamphlets stating what each candidate is running for might also help. Other than that, there are not many other things that help the young people know more about these political campaigns. However, once the young people are made more aware of these political issues, than the young voting mass would increase dramatically. More people would care which would make them want to go out and make a difference by voting. This would make a huge impact because the political campaigns would be greatly affected. This is true because my friends and I would see the "Yes on 22 Protect Marriage" sign day after day. Although we thought nothing more of it the first time we saw it, our curiosity grew to a point where we just had to know what it meant. Finally, one morning in the car one of my friends explained to us what it was about because she had just learned what it was about. She told us that proposition 22 was against recognizing gay marriages in California at least. Those signs were up because those certain people felt that marriage should stay the same as it had always been, man and woman. Once all of us knew what the sign meant, a heated discussion grew in the van. We all voiced our opinions and some disagreed with one another. We argued a little but after awhile, we could not do anything more but wait to vote on this issue to see how it was going to be resolved.
If that was how a little group reacted to learning about a political issue, imagine what would happen if all of the young public was to learn about other political issues such as the presidential campaign. People would state their opinions, argue with each other, and then finally be motivated enough to go vote so that they can make a difference. Not only would they make a huge difference, but also they would get a fair chance at voicing their opinions when they go to vote. What comes to my mind when I think of this issue is the infamous quote: More knowledge equals more power.
Essay themes: Increased interaction between politicians and young people, Election Day a holiday, getting young people interested
There are a lot of things plummeting in today's society. It ranges from politics to morals. It should not come as a surprise that political participation by young people is plummeting. Look around you. Everyone is busier than they used to be. I for one am a college student and I don't have time to do anything other than study and work to support myself through school. That's one of the major problems. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine was asking me a question about the political campaign going on right now. I was stomped! I had no clue what he was talking about. I don't watch TV and I rarely listen to the radio and besides when you do watch TV or listen to the radio, they're giving out too much information that you really need that you get discouraged and after a while you don't pay attention to what the newscaster is saying. And when I look at today's politicians, no matter how hard they try to "connect" with the youth, they're just too old.
A solution to these problems would be for the politicians to be more active especially on college campuses. I don't know the difference between Republicans and Democrats. There needs to be more awareness created among the youth. This can be done by organizing free picnics or concerts or something free that gets everyone's attention. Also the enlistment of groups on campus could influence the youth to vote. If you have a fraternity or sorority gets involved, that can help in enlisting student votes. I am very confused. I don't know where to register to vote. I don't even know how. The whole process almost seems complicated. There's no need to lower the voting age...maybe find politicians that are younger and can represent us better would be a better idea. If I were to register to vote, I would be Independent and just figure my way out as I go along.
Making Election Day a holiday is not a bad idea at all but then people might miss the point. It's just for one day. If it was for a week, then that would be better. I come from a country where on Election Day no one is allowed to go out until a the whole process which is usually until mid-afternoon is completed. But somehow I doubt that something like that would ever take place on American soil where freedom is valued so much.
Getting not only school social organizations but teachers' help is not a bad idea. Vote for extra credit or something innovative to make the students more aware. We all know that our vote counts but it really doesn't hit home. It's just like you know someone has cancer but when it's someone you're close to, then it hits home.
I discourage Internet voting. Internet voting would turn the whole legislative process into a game, which I for one will not participate in.
There are so many ideas and so many things to do. My main suggestion is to do something to grab my attention...something that will make me stop in my tracks to find out what it is and what's going on.
Essay themes: National registration for voting, voting incentives
In the United States today the voting population is composed
mainly of the upper middle class and the elderly. It is discouraging
to see that young people show relatively little interest in,
and are consequently usually uninformed about, politics. This
results in a low voter turnout of young people. As the founders
of our country intended, the United States of America was to
be governed by the people.
I think a solution to this is making it as easy as possible to gain knowledge about candidates by requiring debates between all candidates for office. These could happen on a regular basis and be televised and accessible on the Internet, the two most popular forms of communication among youths. Coupled with discussions in school, I think young people would be encouraged to vote along with an enhanced interest in politics. Another reason why young voters opt not to vote is because usually there are two candidates, one Democrat and one Republican. Some young people don't identify with either party so their lack of vote is a way of saying "none of the above." I think the electoral system should change how difficult it is for a third party and independent candidates to get their name on the ballot. This would allow a greater variety of choices and also would allow the two major parties to not be so moderate on issues in order to capture the majority. I think young people would take more of an interest if there was a candidate running that they could identify with which is more likely to happen with more than two people running with more varied party ideologies. I also think that the candidates could reach out to the younger generations by discussing topics that affect them. The emphasis on taxes and Medicare are not primary concerns for most young people. Many of the people I know feel very strongly about the environment and civil rights. If the candidates would present clear stated opinions on these types of issues I think there would be increased interest.
Another change that the electoral system could make that would increase voter turnout in young people and the rest of the population as well, would be to provide some kind of reward or compensation. This could be in the form of a tax exemption or a monetary reward for participating. This would greatly encourage youths to come out and vote because of the obvious benefit. Although this is somewhat of a last ditch effort I think this is a very serious problem that desperately needs a solution Lastly, I think voter turnout would increase if the process by which voting occurs was made as easy as possible. I personally had a difficult time reregistering when I left my home in California and went to college in Utah. A national registration system could possibly be set up that would make everyone born in the United States a registered voter without the hassle of reregistering especially when it must happen within a month or so until the next election. I think these changes would have significant effects on the low voter turnout among young people. Although I plan to vote in the 2000 Presidential Election many of my friends don't. I definitely think changes need to be made in the electoral process to promote voting among young people. Speaking from my own experience, the more I learned about politics the more interested I became. Hopefully making the process of becoming informed about candidates, having a greater variety of candidates, providing some kind of voting benefit, and making registration as easy as possible would spark the interests of the youthful population and the upcoming generations who would more actively influence our democratic nation.
MELINDA C WARINO
Essay themes: Election Day a holiday
Young adults can't grasp the concept that Election is important, because they look at it as more laws and regulations being passed. When a young adult hears the words rules and regulations, they roll their eyes or turn the other way. Those rules and regulations are there to benefit us and our daily lives, not to tie us down from living and exploring America. Young Adults need to grasp the idea that Election Day is important because our lives are affected by decisions that are being made now, not just for the present but for the future as well. By having Election Day as a holiday, I think that young adults will finally understand the importance of voting because the whole day will be focused around the whole political arena. Young adults would enjoy voting, perhaps participating and going to conventions and have a true understanding what goes on in politics.
Young adults are scared to face the idea that someday we will be in those politicians' shoes, running America and passing laws. It is a high responsibility and young adults don't want to face that because they figure that it will always be old people in office, and never of the thought that we (young adults) are going to be old someday as well. Election Day is a huge deal in my life. I was looking forward to the day that I was able to participate in my first vote. I was excited to know that I was going to be part of history, and that my decisions and my vote counted, and by voting I was making an huge impact on my life as well as others. Political Participation needs to be a big deal and making it a holiday would increase the chance of doing so. Let's take Christmas for an example. Everyone in America knows about Christmas, and that Christmas is always on Dec. 25 and that we receive gifts and are able to spend time with loved ones. With Christmas it is the whole symbolic perspective that is taking place, gift exchange and Santa Claus. For Election Day, if it were considered to be a holiday, it would take the same role as Christmas. Election Day would be considered a huge Holiday and even a celebration as the young adults get enthused about the whole idea of Political Participation. Election Day not only needs to be exciting, but it needs to sound exciting as well. Election Day should be thought of as a present given to us, like on Christmas Day. Young adults should go vote with excitement and get involved, and the only way that will be done is if Election Day was declared a holiday. There would be an increase in voting and participation, due to the fact that that day was set aside for that particular reason.
Essay themes: Ways that might help voting numbers
Many would claim that the voting problem has stemmed from the corrupt American government; many have decided to stop voting because they feel that the United States government cannot be changed with their one vote. Either way, voting numbers have declined throughout the decades making 1998 an all time low. What eligible voters use as a crutch for not voting, is in fact a reflection of America's value system. We as Americans are no longer taught that voting is our voice as where during the Civil Rights Era people were taught that their right to vote is one of the most important amendments. Voter registration has declined since then and people have never been as excited about politics since then. This lack of excitement for politics can be aided by not only politicians, but people who also had a passion for politics made a few changes in future elections. In Curtis B. Gans article A Final Look at the 1998 Election, it was stated that only 11% of young people voted which "threatens the future of the American democratic experiment". This lack of votes is caused by young people who careless about politics.
The reason why they choose not to participate is because they are not told that their votes matter. These numbers can be raised by putting voting booths on college campuses and by teaching young people about their government and what might happen if they continue not to vote. Also, issues that might interest young people should be discussed more often rather than issues geared directly towards older Americans (pre-baby boomers). This, in turn, might improve and raise the voting percentages of young people in America.
Another effective method would be if more politicians would allow the young generation constituent channels such as MTV, to talk about politics to this audience. In the past, such methods have proven effective (i.e. the '94 Presidential race held the highest number in years of young voters). Politicians should speak to the younger audience and talk to them about issues that would be of importance to them. Also, organizations such as Rock the Vote. should travel to more campuses and areas where younger constituents "hang out" and talk to them about their right to vote.
Another remedy that might help voting participation as a whole is if politicians spoke to people on the same level as them. Not everyone speaks in the same political manner; therefore certain issues should be discussed as one would talk to a high school child. It has been proven that most people have the vocabulary of a freshman in high school; therefore politicians should talk to the voters on that level to some extent.
At last, people should be encouraged to vote, no matter their demographic. Many times what happens is that certain areas are looked over because people assume that area of people are not going to vote, thus they do not bother to talk to them. This sequentially has an effect on the people living in that demographic that causes them not to care enough to vote. For that reason, a political campaign should reach an entire demographic and make certain that they not pass any voter or any future voter. Hopefully, these ideas will allow for a higher voter turnout for the next Presidential race. People need to feel special in any sense before they do anything, let alone vote. Politicians should in some way make these voters feel special, which in turn might cause them to vote. Once voter numbers are high, they might once again continue to rise until everyone who is eligible to vote, does vote, which hopefully might make this country a better place.
Essay themes: Democracy
Contributing Ideas: Changing the voting age The current age of voting is 18 years in California. This is a not a bad age after all you are legally an adult at the age 18 in California. I personally believe that the legal age of voting should be 16. Teenagers often watch the news quiet a bit and can become very interested at an early age if able to participate. Enabling teenagers to vote can be a great privilege. It may excite them to participate in society. It could allow them to choose politics as a career. Politics could become part of an educational preference or even occupation. I asked a few teenagers what tier thoughts were on the voting age, all being age 14-17, they all replied that they felt it should be younger than it is. I asked a few people older than 18, particularly between the ages of 18 - 42 who replied that they had not thought about the voting age but it could not hurt to lower it.
Internet Voting: Internet voting would become very popular and may get more people to vote. You can quickly access the site and also do it conveniently from anywhere. .Since the process would be fast and simple you would be more compelled to do it. Your absentee voting would almost diminish because that would no longer be that big of a problem. In addition to Internet voting being convenient, it may also increase the amount of voters dramatically. If you increase the age and make Internet voting possible you may already have a vast number of new voters in the USA.
Making Election Day a Holiday: This would not be very important issue but could be very effective in increasing the amount of voters. This would also allow people's time to study the pro's and con's of their choices. Making election day a holiday could become very effective for several reasons: ? Increasing the amount of voters ? Allowing time for study on pros and cons of choices ? Creating plenty of time for people to vote ? Creating family involvement Conclusion The world is growing rapidly and several people are becoming less involved in certain political issues. Trying to involve the world can start by drastic change such as age of voting, internet voting and making election day a holiday.
These issues and changes would be noticed and effective in increasing the amount of voters. I am a current voter and was anxious to vote at the age of 18 but was very involved at 16 and would have taken interest immediately at that age. I enjoy being able to put my input in when allowed. I would for my child be happy to teach her to vote earlier than 18 especially if she is going to drive at 16. When the time comes hopefully I will have this day off to make Election Day a family event
TONY WONG WALNUT CREEK, CA
Essay themes: Youth education for politics and civics, increased access to registration, alienation from political candidates
Restoring American Democracy
Americans have long prided themselves on the strength of democracy, viewing the United States as undeniable proof that free government by the people can not only survive but also thrive tremendously. A glance at the numbers on Wall Street over the last decade attests to America's overwhelming economic success. What most Americans never realize, however, is that American government is largely undemocratic. True democracy requires that the government representing its people and reflecting their interests in its legislation. In America, voter turnouts are plummeting to such low levels that the government increasingly represents a diminishing body of people, most often special interest groups that have a personal stake in political affairs. To restore America to rightful democracy, the government must improve voter turnouts, particularly among the younger voters who will shape politics for the next century, by overcoming three major obstacles: ignorance of political issues, inconvenience and widespread cynicism of voting's usefulness.
The government should encourage political activity in school communities, make voting more accessible to youth and seriously consider youth's opinions on political issues to achieve greater youth voter turnouts. Encouraging political activity in school communities, through increased communication with politicians and programs such as model legislatures and debates, would raise awareness of political issues among youth and consequently improve voter turnouts. Currently, the vast majority of youth remains largely ignorant of political affairs; most youth could not name the two US Senators who represent their state, much less the politicians on the state or local levels. If politicians made more of an effort to communicate with schools, making periodic visits or recruiting more student volunteers for campaigns, students would become more involved with politics. For well over a month after President Clinton visited a school district near my area, for example, the Clinton administration's policies became a popular conversation topic, significantly raising political awareness among high school students. Model legislatures and debate programs produce a similar enthusiasm for political affairs.
For example, YMCA's Youth and Government program, which creates model state and national governments and provides a forum for youth to debate controversial political issues, has had tremendous success stimulating youth's curiosity about political affairs and appreciation for the power of the vote. By integrating mock legislatures and debate into schools' civics curriculum, the government would encourage political involvement among youth. Such encouragement of political activity in the school community would eventually produce a more politically aware and enthusiastic voting body, resulting in greater voter turnouts. The government could also improve youth involvement in politics by making voting more accessible to youth through election-day voter registration and Internet voting.
Most 18-year-olds do not realize that they need to register to vote until the registration deadline has already passed; moreover, registering and voting is often inconvenient for teenagers and youth, who lack the organization and time management skills to fit the voting process into their schedules. Election-day voter registration would significantly improve voter turnout by including the many absent-minded youth who forget the registration deadline. Also, Internet voting and registration would make the voting process much simpler for and more accessible to technology-savvy youth. For an exponentially growing population of youth, the Internet is becoming the primary source of information and news; the average teenager would be ten times more likely to register to vote over the Internet than to pick up a registration form at the post office. Youth use their computers often enough to feel comfortable with the interface, and would find filling out forms on the Internet much more convenient than traditional forms of registering and voting. Hence, voter turnout among youth would rise dramatically with election-day registration and Internet voting. Aside from ignorance and inconvenience, widespread cynicism of voting's usefulness also prevents many youth from voting-an attitude the government can correct by taking youth's opinions on political issues seriously.
For the most part, youth feel alienated from their political
representatives; candidates seem more interested in wealthier,
older generations that can contribute to campaign funds than
in poor high school or college students. Moreover, most youth
have grown up with general suspicion of the government and have
developed an awareness of corruption, amplified by media attention
to political scandals. Youth need some assurance that their
political opinions are important to politicians, and that their
vote can actually make a difference in policy making. The government
should thus encourage candidates and politicians already in
office to dedicate at least some of their attention to listening
to youths' voices. If government implemented a program in which
politicians would receive and consider at least one idea for
reform from every high school district or college in the area
they represent, students would feel less cynical about their
importance in government machinery. Also, political parties
should make more of an effort to recruit youth, even though
they may not be able to offer campaign contributions. Youth
who have an opportunity to volunteer in a campaign or who are
being recruited by a political party will gain an appreciation
for their votes' significance.
Essay themes: Elimination of Electoral College, Internet voting
We can't vote for the president. We have to vote for a person
to vote for the president for us, which is the electoral person.
I believe that the people should vote for the president directly
and not through someone, for many reasons. One, we should be
able to nominate who we want. The electoral person may also
switch and vote for a different president then they said they
would vote for.
I think that eighteen years old is a good age to vote. That is when you are an adult and somewhat mature to make your own decisions. The age shouldn't be changed. If anything you should have to be older to vote. Many people still don't know too much about voting and might not be accurate on who they vote for.
I think it also would be a good idea to vote on the Internet. Everything else is on the Internet and I also think more people would vote because many people don't want to go outside their home to vote.
I do think it would be a good idea to make Election Day a holiday. Many people want to vote and can't vote because they have to work and go to school. Also because many people want to see who gets elected and they can't because they have no access to a television at work or school.
I think more young people should be involved in the government. Like me, and many other students, I have a government class. I learned many things about the government that I had never known before. Knowing what is going on in your country is good to know. Young or old, everyone should be able to voice their opinion about the government.
Essay themes: Same day voter registration, Internet voting, simplified education broad in scope
My Dream for America
"We have not inherited the earth from our ancestors, but merely borrowed it from our children." -Ancient Proverb-
This quote illustrates a fact that, as I grow older, affects me more and more each day. It depicts how the future of our world lies in the hands of our youth. The students of today will be the leaders of tomorrow. In short, I myself and people like me, (whether we like it or not) are going to be responsible for the welfare of this great nation is the years to come. Sadly, in our country's present state of ignorance and pop culture saturation, people of my generation could care less about participating in the United States government. The political process for the voters of 2000 has become so incredibly complex, that most Americans under the age of 25 believe it's a task that belongs at the bottom of their list of priorities. This must change. So many of our country's problems impact the young adults of our society, it would be foolish to let this attitude prevail. We must act now if we want to ensure the security of our future. I believe that the key elements in increasing voter participation among young people, are education, simplification, and increased access.
The right to vote is an expression of the freedom that so many of our county's soldiers have died for. The fact that most 21st Century Americans live such ignorant and self-centered lives, that they don't even care to exercise this freedom, sickens me. As the vibrant generation of America, we owe it to our ancestors to get involved in the representative government they worked so hard to establish. Well, how do we go about doing this? How do we awaken the democratic spirit that lies dormant in our hearts? (Sure, we can stress it to the nation's high school seniors, but this remains ineffective because after they graduate they are on their own and often neglect to take time to register). We could try through the Nations colleges, but what about all those people who don't attend college? How do we reach them? How do we reach anybody? The answer to these questions is simply to get the word out. If there is one thing we Americans are good at it's advertising. With the proper infrastructure and use of funds, we could raise political awareness throughout the land. Combine education with entertainment, post voting registration materials near major areas of commerce. Integrate the act of voting into the every day lives of the people of this country. As of now, our field of education is far too narrow. You know, it amazes me that the current government is content to send out pamphlets only to those people who are registered to vote. If anything, these "informational" packets should be given to every eligible U.S citizen. One thing is certain, there needs to be an immediate expansion of education on the importance of voting nation wide. The first step to sparking people's interest in voting is to simplify the voting process.
It is amazing how much the average Joe/Jane doesn't know about politics. Most honors students I know would still have a hard time understanding the jargon that makes up the different propositions that go on the ballot. Not to mention the slew of hypocrisy that slanders the media every election year, that does nothing but confuse potential voters. My suggestion is to revise the information booklets in a way that won't require us to spend hours of our precious time researching exactly what it means. (Come on, the average 20 year old would rather look up information on sexually transmitted diseases than take the time to find out what Proposition 18 means.) Give us an easy to read, user-friendly booklet that tells us why we should vote on it. For those of us who are already enriched with knowledge of politics, make available to us the more intricate details through other means. Above all, KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Finally, the most practical change that should take place in our voting process is the way that we access the ballot itself. Think about it, even if citizens decide to vote, they can only do so on one day if they are registered way in advance. This results in stereotypical fears of long lines and frustrating waits. Also, since life must go on election or not, employers are not eager to let their employee's leave to go vote. The standards in effect should remain the same, but the election period should take place over five working days, that way everyone could have a chance to vote.
Another alternative to physically going to the ballot site is to create a secure way of voting through the Internet. I believe that the technology exists, it's just a matter of motivating our government officials to get this idea off the ground. Also, I propose that same day voter registration be put into effect as soon as possible. These reforms would make it possible for everyone to participate in our representative democracy. If these things could happen, if my dreams could come true, then we would live in a wonderful place. It would be a nation of full representation because everyone would eagerly take part in the actions of the state. Our now cluttered legislative branch would run like a well-oiled machine. The youth of America could stop complaining about injustices and restrictions and for once revel in the bliss of freedom. We are the greatest nation in the world, and thus being so it is our responsibility to be an example of the social contract's true form. Let us show the earth that the children of this country care about our future, let us show the earth that it is in good hands.
Essay themes: Attitudes of youth, media, education reform, influence of campaign finance
The plummeting of political participation is not only a problem in the realm of America's youth, but also in the nation as a whole. Less than 50% of people who are eligible to vote do so. Of these registered voters less than 40% of them make it to the voting booths. The youth are following in the footsteps of their parents and a new media-based nonpolitical culture. If a remedy is to be found to cure the population's lack of political involvement, it must encompass not only the issues of convenience but also the public's general attitude toward the political system.
To better understand the attitude of the youth towards politics, I think one must look at the lives of our youth. Most people my age and younger were raised on television with advertising targeted to us starting at age two. The imagery on the glowing screen taught us what we should look like, what our parents should look like, and what love and acceptance from our parents and peers should look like. After 3 years of digesting advertisements and what little our parents had time to teach us, we were put into public schools. Our educational system tells us about our government and our nation's history in a display as colorful and patriotic as fireworks. Small children act out scenes from our history that never happened. Happy Indians and docile pilgrims eating at the same table in harmony, a proud, courageous Abe Lincoln freeing the slaves with a tug of his beard and a wave of his hand, and so on...
Through our adolescence, television continued to project an image of what our lives should look like, young consumers having fun. As we progressed into higher education only the words got larger and the textbooks had fewer pictures. The information stayed the same and was repeated and repeated...America is the greatest place on Earth, our government is and has always been wise and just, capitalism is the only way to run an economy, and our nation has made few, if any, mistakes (depending on the textbook). This mindless sense of patriotism combined with an instant-gratification movement in our media most often leaves the youth either the feeling that "the government is doing a fine job, why bother?" (blind patriotism) or the feeling that "we are not and will not be represented in our government, why bother?" (frustrated cynicism).
I believe that if we would like to see our citizens participate in the electoral process we must first educate them on the why end of the subject as well as the how. We need to offer students a fair record of our nation's history which involves all races and all classes rather than patriotic propaganda. Our government needs to show its citizens the importance of voting by way of national holidays on election days. We need to make all elections nonpartisan to make sure that candidates address issues rather than ride on party ballots. We need to separate economics from government by way of serious campaign finance reform so that persons who represent the people have a chance to be heard. We need to offer a "none of the above" option on each ballot so that people do not feel pressured to vote on things they do not understand.
I think that the above-mentioned ideas would help to deal with the apathy and the cynicism that we are seeing at voter turnouts. However, I am certain that no change in our electoral system would result in changes over night. As an activist, the political participation statistics and the general public's apathy often frustrate me. It is my understanding that most people do not comprehend that a democracy is dependent on the participation of all peoples who live within its borders. This country has a constitution in place that has laid down the groundwork for a true democracy. The people must realize their part and help to educate others. Democracy means government of the people, by the people, for the people, but without participation one will never receive representation.
As we move towards the impending campaign I find myself, like so many of my peers, able to vote for the first time. For all of the high school, graduates to the year 2000 this is the first time we will be able to send our voices out into the political arena. Yet many will not. There are in fact numerous reasons for the slump in youth political participation, but there are also countless solutions available to alleviate the problem.
In order to come to a solution one must first address the problem at hand, be it a lack of voter participation or lowering the crime rate. Yet this simple process rarely occurs with the political issues pertinent to the age group ranging from 18-25. (generally the college age group) Rather, politicians and campaign managers work nearly exclusively within the tried and true aspects of politics, addressing the same issues time and again. There is a newness to the young voters, and an entirely different political agenda that accompanies this newness. The traditional issues are not necessarily at the forefront of young minds, and will not stir them to voice their opinions. Yes, the budget deficit is decreasing, and that is a good thing, but why has Tibet not gained more freedom? Why are alternative fuels, or even alternative lifestyles brushed aside by political tycoons--the majority rule. Often the ideas of youth are brushed aside and rarely offered the protection of representation. We are not the majority, and the reaction to our opinions reflects this. Frankly, it is disheartening. If one does not perceive progress he or she will move on to more fruitful venues where it seems a difference can be made. Many give up on the system entirely.
It is important to remember the position that most people are placed in from the time of high school graduation to college graduation. During this time, young men and women will find themselves often worrying about mounting debts, paying for dinner, and passing the next exam. There are few of the middle-class comforts (such as stability--economic or otherwise) during this scramble. Life is often taken to extremes during these years. This includes within politics-ideas and ambition abound. But stating these ideas must be worthwhile. Perhaps the satisfaction of doing a duty to one's country is not enough at this point in life when so much is just "give and take". However, there are ways to make this duty worthwhile. Some are very simple, such as opening the polling hours so that a student or full-time worker doesn't have to try and squeeze in a vote at the expense of the only free time they have during the day. Also, voting is a slow and tedious process, which leaves one with little sense of immediate personal accomplishment. If there were a way to see ongoing results after polling, it might make people feel like part of something greater, and make voting a more rewarding experience.
Unfortunately, we cannot rule out the almighty dollar as an incentive. Much of our young lives are spent dedicating thought to gaining grades, or to a job and the paycheck it brings. Even this essay has monetary incentive behind it. Of course this is not the most idealistic incentive; it is certainly not one that I would like to say I fell to, but it has been proven effective. There are plenty of examples to site within politics alone--from high school poll workers earning $50 a day, all the way up to the famous saying "no new taxes." While this enticement to the polls does seem rather low even when considering its benefits, one must ask the question: is this any worse than the smear tactics, propaganda, and spinning which have countless dollars invested into them every year? At least the monetary incentive would be a democratic endeavor, and the end results would seem to justify the means. If a direct handout seems out of the question, an alternative with better connotations might be a "voter's tax credit," in the same sense that a donation to a political party or candidate is deductible.
It could be argued that monetary reimbursement could bring out opportunists who would cast a vote just for the money, whether they knew a thing about the politics or not. To an extent, this is a valid fear. Yet the question of why there are so many uneducated potential voters may be more important than what to do with them if they were to violate the system. The answer to this question is very clear from my vantage point, for it takes a great deal of initiative for me to even begin to understand the political systems of the U.S. This comes from a lack of education at the high school level. How can one semester of government during the entirety of the schooling we are given make us competent in the world of politics? Realistically, it cannot. Perhaps some of the reluctance to cast a vote comes from this lack of knowledge. Young people know that they are deficient in political knowledge. This is not to say that we are void of thought on the matters of course, but there are certainly many who do not see the whole picture well enough to want to influence it, small as that influence may be.
There are subtle ways to change the process behind electing our government officials; the most important of which are increased representation and a more complete political education. The prior will not only increase democracy and broaden the spectrum of issues seen by the masses, it will also increase the sense of purpose and thus participation of the young men and women of America who long to be heard. The former issue is equally important, for although it will not produce immediate results, it will enrich the system in the future and pave the way for a more informed and active young voting population.
Before addressing the possible bribes that could be used to prompt greater activity in politics and voting among peoples of my age, I think I must take a minute to address the root problem; why it is that we are not voting.
A great number of young adults have lost interest in the political system of this country. It is really quite simple - the power structure is not working in our favor, we see no great future achievements in legislation or politics, and we would much rather put our energies towards more fulfilling ends. The nature of politics in this country has progressed to a corrupt web of lies and deception that clearly favors the white male who spends his life working nine to five and has given his voice, his freedom, his manhood over to his government.
Those of us who refuse to succumb to this lifestyle find ourselves constantly battling to maintain even a base level standard of living. We have not chosen to close our eyes to the social conditions that surround us, and we have not chosen to be pretentious suburbans living life in a bubble of our own creation, fooling ourselves into believing that words and legislative acts will solve the many problems of these times.
We do not have much faith in the legislative system in America. We study our history, and realize that nothing has really changed, despite numerous amendments, acts, and programs. We find these to be simple attempts to pacify the masses in a scheme of the largest proportions to launder our riches and our wealth.
You ask why we do not vote or participate actively in politics. I ask why should we choose between two evils, two wrongs. You say we have the right to vote. I say, we have the wrong to vote and give you the wrong, not the right, to do more wrong. We are waking up to the social climate; one of hate, deception, and crime that has been nurtured from day one of the founding of this country.
We see constant hypocrisy in the history of this country, and a history of so-called "leaders" too weak and shameful to admit their wrongs and attempt to create some truth and justice. From the make-up of our "Founding Fathers" to the men in power today, we can not take genuine pride and we do not wish to follow in these footsteps. We know that, as voters, we do not have any real power of decision or choice. We know that we are only stooges playing along in a game that, in the end, will be our downfall. We know about the CIA, we know about the FBI, we know about the FDA and the WTO. We know that our needs are not being adequately met by our own government.
We know that the people who built this country are still treated as second class citizens, relegated to the despicable ghettos of the inner city, and forced to be dependent on ludicrous public assistance programs, McDonald's hamburger, and with no hope of owning land, owning a business, being independent and self-sufficient.
Today's youth can see the hypocrisy of working the nine to five job in search of a far off pension plan and retirement benefits. We will not be blinded like our parents and grandparents. Unfortunately many of us have turned to drug business to make our fortune. We are killing ourselves off, caught in a trap, and we can not see our way out. What we need is our tax money to take care of the basics first. Food, clothes, shelter. A vast majority of this nations citizens are not clothed, are hungry, and have no roof over their heads. How can we even begin to address the issue of political activity before solving the basic necessities of life.
I'll tell you why we are not voting - a great number of us are dead, dying, or in your prison system. The natural resources of this nation have been so depleted that this land is no longer self-sufficient. How can we begin to survive on a land that is stripped, raped, conquered? And how do we propose to repay the native peoples that we have abused for the last 500 years. The era of U.S. Supremacy and Western World Rule is coming to a rapid end. Our dynasty is quickly losing power and we are grasping at straws.
And you ask what can we do, how can we solve these problems and empower this younger generation? My message to you, to the men and women in charge, to the power structure of this country. My message to you is stop lying. Stop teaching lies and immorality through your downpressing practices and propaganda. Get your citizens fed, clothed, and under a roof, then start educating us. Give us some skills to enter into this rat race you have started. Give us computers, teach us to use them, and help us in our individual pursuits. Stop sucking us dry with taxes and fees, and give us financial assistance to start our independent pursuits. Repay the descendants of slaves and repay the native Americans. Find some justice for the people of this country. Educate us on truth and the world. Don't shut us in a box, ignorant of the world community, perpetrating white supremacy and western "democracy." Give us something worthwhile to vote for and we might start showing up at the polls. Don't be afraid to admit the wrongs of the past and present; that is the only way to grow and move into the future.