Essay themes: Engage young people
BRIAN G HOLLAND
ALICIA A RUTLEDGE
NWAKASO UMEJIEGO AUSTELL, GA High school student
Essay themes: Engage young people
As young people our lives are very random and busy. We are constantly playing sports or involved in some other extra-curricular activity. Many of us are also forced to work in order to enjoy the luxury of a beat up old car that costs more to keep running than you paid for it, or to receive an already overpriced education that you can't even study for due to the lack of time spent on work. One place though that you will almost always find a young person is at school. I question why there isn't access to voting places at colleges or even high schools. This is important to me because of the fact that I am so busy. I think that it would be easier for me to vote if I didn't have so far out of the way to go. Sometimes in order to reach a younger person you have to be standing right in front of them so they have to run into you to notice you. If we are aware that when we are at school on the day of voting we can go and make a decision, more people would start paying attention to what was going on so that they could vote wisely. Young people don't like making mistakes after all we are never wrong.
Another reform I would agree with would be to lower the voting age. I would suggest sixteen or seventeen years of age, but not any lower. When I was in high school taking my U.S. history classes I was probably more aware of what was going on in politics than I am now. Every day I had to go and sit in a class room and learn about politics and how it affected our lives. Younger people when given the opportunity and the responsibility will more often than not pull through and consider choices very carefully. You have to think... laws that are passed today are affecting younger people too who by this time are working and driving. When they are made more aware of the fact that they have a say in the major things that affect their lives including schools and education, they will become more active in the voting process.
Older people don't realize this, but younger people are listening. The youth pay attention to what is going on in the world. Growing up I think that a lot of us feel that nobody is talking to us about the things that are important to our lives. I know this from watching the news and reading the candidates views on political issues. We are not being addressed as much as I would like to be. I also don't agree with the way in which we are being addressed. People always want to protect us which is what adults do for children. They seldom stop and ask us what we think on the issues. Are the candidates really trying to speak to us or for us? I think that if the issues and the candidates would address us and ask us about the things that may affect us more like college tuition, scholarships, racism, our future social security, job securities and opportunities and other issue that directly affect us as much as they do our parents, we would respond more by going out and voting and defending or supporting what we believe in. I think that as far as the presidential candidates are concerned, the fact that we don't go out to vote as much as the older generation does in fact give rise to the lack of attention paid to us. It will take a two part effort to get the younger generation of this society to get out and vote. If we are all made aware of this problem and take the necessary steps to go out and find the solution, the voting number of the younger people will rise. I think that Bill Clinton actually made a good decision when he went on MTV and spoke to the younger generation. Those are the kinds of steps that need to be taken.
We are the generation who feels like we are better seen than heard. Step down and talk to us and listen and we will tell you what we think. We do have very good opinions and ideas. We just need the demand for them and the opportunity to express them.
Essay themes: Idea for a program directed at involving young people in politics
Political Reform 2000- debates, pre-votes, and convenience
Political participation by young people is plummeting. As we begin the new millennium, it is time for a drastic change. However, one-step methods are not going to work if long-term changes are sought. The best and most logical way to fix this problem is by Political Reform 2000 or PR2. PR2 is a combination of some simple reforms that just could not do the job alone. Those are as follows: debates, pre-votes, and convenience. Debates will be required arguments between candidates. They will also be interactive between the people and the candidates. Pre-votes are a new system that has never been tried. Secondary students that are not age 18 or older will be able to vote as long as they are in good academic standing. This will be a privilege to them not a right. Their votes will count half of a registered adults vote. Finally, there is convenience, which has become a big problem. With today's technology and advancements, it does not make since to go to a voting area and stand in long lines. Well, convenience would allow voters to vote on the Internet, by mail, or by computers and register anytime before they vote at a voting station. PR2 is a plan that if tried is bound to succeed.
First, there are mandatory debates for the candidates. This is not so much for the candidates as it is for the people. The voters will see who is in a certain race and what they are all about. As mentioned earlier, the people will be able to participate in the debates by the Internet or telephone calls. Mandatory debates will raise awareness and allow people to see who these candidates really are.
Next, pre-votes will start precedents among young people to vote. Once one starts a habit, it is hard to stop. The same idea is used here. The young people that vote will also have certain privileges over those that choose not to vote. Such things like early driving and scholarships, which are things that would be incentives to young people and lure them to try the program.
Finally, there will be convenience for all people to vote. This allows the big percentage of people that do not vote because they work to have the opportunity. If work is conflicting with them not exercising their right to vote, a mandatory break of forty-five minutes will be placed, so they can vote. A website and mailing cards will be set up for voters. Since a large number of people are on the Internet everyday, in just a few minutes time a person can register their vote for an election. An overall incentive for states is as follows: All states with at least a 20% average increase at all elections held in their state will receive a tax cut for the residents of their state.
PR2 will work simply because it provides for the needs of the people to rebuild their faiths in the system. This plan solves for the main problems why people do not vote. If young people's participation is already decreasing then what are we going to do when less than 10% of them vote? They are the future adults, which are usually depended on to vote. This is not right and action needs to be taken as soon as possible. That is why PR2 needs to be enforced. PR2 will but the decreasing participation to a halt and swing it back up. The problem now is that these young people do not feel apart or interested. PR2 gets them involved, which gets them to vote. The main point is this: (involvement + interaction) X (people) = (a dramatic increase in voting among adults and young people), which PR2 does.
As a young person, it is important to me that people vote. It is a right that not everyone in the world is privileged to have and we should use. Frequently, I hear people complaining about government officials but they do not vote. Voting is the biggest way to get your point across. So if you are not willing to do so, then you have no place to complain. Besides, if very few people are voting then we are just letting anyone go into office. I want someone who knows what I need and want and will fight for me. This same general idea is what most people also want. Again, PR2 does just that. It gets all people involved and makes it as convenient as possible for everyone to vote. This is what the majority of people want, what I want, and what is needed to increase political participation. _If you build it, they will come_ is what everyone needs to remember here. PR2 is ready to be built and once it is the voters will come.
The plan is so irresistible with many good plans and advantages that it is hard to resist. Keep in mind, PR2 is the only eligible plan so we can try it and watch it succeed. Or, we can wait until the day that the President is elected by two people that vote. It is easier to sit around and complain than make a change. Well, PR2 is a great choice that will float a boat to the other side. Finally, choose and select PR2 because it is a risk worth taking.
Essay themes: Proportional voting and multiparty systems
"Why Don't We Vote?"
Among the many democracies of the world, the United States stands out as the original experiment in modern democracy. The experiment has succeeded remarkably well without major reform; much of this success can be attributed to a Constitution that has heretofore provided a just and adaptable framework for popular government. However, discrepancies in the American system have arisen. Voter turnout is dropping rapidly as Americans suffer a growing sense of alienation from the political process; this trend is markedly disturbing among young adults, only 32% of whom voted in the 1996 presidential elections. (Statistical Abstract of the US, 1998 edition, Bureau of the Census). Many analysts and activists have attributed this embarrassing percentage to a political order that seems more responsive to the contributions of wealthy special interests than to the wishes of the average voter, hence the recent push for campaign finance reform. This is only part of the story, however. The United States political scene is becoming increasingly stagnant as incrementalist politicians pursue visions of mediocrity and the mere absence of popular disapproval; the concerns of many facets of society, including young adults, are thereby often neglected. American democracy must evolve with the convictions of the electorate. This evolution can be stimulated only by the variation of new and innovative ideas. As an 18-year-old eligible to vote for the first time in November, I can attest to the disheartening effects of a stale democracy. Young adults will return to the polls when the issues important and interesting to us are addressed, and this can best be done through the introduction of proportional representation and a multi-party system.
The recent activity of the two major political parties has
often been described as a "fight for the center" of the political
spectrum. With both parties courting the moderates of the electorate,
the concerns of many young adults are sidelined. For example,
even as the World Trade Organization recuperates from the embarrassment
inflicted by mostly young, frustrated American voters in Seattle,
both Republicans and Democrats sing the merits of unabashed
free trade. Though most young voters are concerned with such
topics as environmental protection, responsible foreign policy,
and the revitalization of democracy, neither party has outlined
any fresh, innovative proposals to address these issues. It
is no surprise, then, that only one third of 18-29 year olds
identify with either of the major parties. (Halstead, Ted. "A
Politics for Generation X," The Atlantic Monthly. August 1999.)
Nor can the problem be solved by easing candidacy qualifications or enacting campaign-spending limits to even the playing field for third party candidates. The "winner-take-all" system will inevitably leave a minority of citizens without true representation in government. For example, if one candidate receives 51% of the vote in a single-member district, he or she will have won the race, and 49% of the electorate could be unhappy with the result. The winner-take-all method of electing government officials is unrepresentative and stifles the proliferation of political ideas important to those not affiliated with either of the major political parties -- namely, young adults.
In determining what voting system would best encourage fair representation and a variety of political views, the United States need only look to the successes of other modern democracies. Almost all-democratic nations outrank the U.S. in terms of voter turnout percentages; most report a voter turnout of between 70% and 90% ("Center for Voting and Democracy library" http://www.fairvote.org/library/turnout/compare). It is no coincidence that virtually all of these nations utilize some form of proportional representation in their national elections.
Proportional representation is a voting system in which a party or candidate receives seats in a multi-member district, in proportion to percentages of approval at the polls. This method allots a majority of representation to a majority of the population, while also providing representation for minority views. Imagine, for example, a 10-member county commission election. Each party would be awarded a seat for each 10% of the vote that it accumulates. If the Democrats win 50% of the district, Republicans 30%, Reformers 10%, and Libertarians 10%, each party would receive at least a seat and the Democrats would receive five seats. In the current system, the commission could be composed entirely of Democrats, with 50% of the population left unrepresented and creative ideas left unconsidered.
Proportional representation is a fairly simple concept. Many nations have switched from a "winner-take-all" system to some form of PR; Japan, South Africa, and Mexico -- countries that implemented the reform in 1993 -- enjoyed a relatively smooth and tranquil transition. Though the implementation of proportional representation would require an overhaul of the U.S. voting system, the United States must consider ambitious reform to avert a very real threat to democracy -- that of political apathy.
As voter turnout in America continues to decline, heated debate will ensue over solutions and reforms. In the eyes of my generation, this debate may appear somewhat mundane, a squabble between those who propose nothing and those who propose very little. This approach to a solution will actually be a manifestation of the problem. Proportional representation and a multi-party system can satisfy our dire need for new political perspectives and dynamic ideas. If the American experiment continues to isolate those who are expected to see it through the 21st century, it will inevitably fail. Besides, whether it be Reform, Green, Libertarian, or New, everyone knows that the young love a good party.
Essay themes: Electoral College, internet voting
As the 21st century begins, political participation by young people is plummeting. Although countless reasons could be given for such a lack of interest, I believe much of the blame can be attributed to the feelings of frustration and discourse shared by so many young people today. Frankly, as a high school student I see us as an irresponsible lot who seldom performs any act which does not benefit us directly. The key to increasing political participation, then, is to find ways in which young people (high school students in particular) benefit from voting and being politically active.
We are a computer literate generation, having been introduced to computers and technology advancements since kindergarten. At our local voting polls in my hometown, voters must stand in line, fill out sheets of voter information, and then use antiquated machines to cast ballots. This does nothing to increase our interest in the process. However, introduce on-line voting via the Internet and we're hooked! It would spark an area of interest for our generation. Alaska is currently experimenting with this process. Let's take this concept one step further. Let us register to vote on-line and as a component of our civics, history, or social studies class. Voter registration could occur as part of the class requirements. If students were offered extra class credits or grade boosters for voting, pupils would readily increase their involvement.
Another opportunity to increase participation might be to lower the voting age to 16. The idea here would be to allow the person to register to vote at the same time they took their driver's license exam. For a large majority of teenagers, acquiring one's driver's license is the most important event in the teen years. Voter registration could be piggybacked onto the process. An entirely new generation of voters would be ready for the next elections. Sixteen year olds want to be grown up. Adding the privilege of voting to their driver's license would increase their willingness to participate and be treated as an adult. Europe has experienced positive results from a voter holiday. If all voters were offered a holiday from school or work when they produced proof of voting, I firmly believe their participation would increase. A holiday is a celebration of life or a particular event. Allowing a voter holiday places the utmost importance on the event and celebrates the freedom we as Americans enjoy. As with all holidays, media coverage will enhance the event and concentrate the public's attention toward the political process.
The Electoral College is also an obstacle. The existence of the college is perceived by some to lesson the importance of our vote. Past history is evidence that the highest vote getter does not always win. A direct voting system would be more representative of the American way of life and give more credence to our election process in the eyes of America's youth.
Ultimately, however, young people as a whole are disillusioned
with the political process in America today. There is no better
time to discuss it than now, in the midst of a presidential
campaign. As children, we grow up learning right from wrong.
We are taught not to cheat, steal, or lie. We learn the meaning
of a strong work ethic and the importance of sound fiscal responsibility.
We witness our parents working one, two, and possibly three
jobs to support not only our family but those less fortunate
in our society who need food and health care to survive. We
are told that we must be held accountable and responsible for
our actions. Employers will not hire us unless we are able to
work as a team player for the common good of the company, not
just ourselves. Yet, as a spectator we observe the political
arena in disbelief, frustration, and anger.
I believe the answer to these questions is yes. The challenge, then, falls partly on our shoulders and partly on the current political system. Nothing we do will snare every potential participant. However, the overall impact could be tremendous. Increased participation by people my age has the potential of correcting those wrongs we so often hear about. It has the potential to provide those of us who are interested in the political process the wisdom of those who have gone before us. We would have the potential to create a political system that we've been told should exist. We would have the potential to correct mistakes and, yes, create our own. My generation is the brightest there has yet been because we have had your knowledge to draw from. The impact of our political participation could be world changing. Current politicians and political insiders must make the effort to be what we are taught to be, honest, moral, and ethical. Then, they must choose to change the system and invite us to participate. We are here, waiting at the door.
Essay themes: Role of elected officials, marketing of the
Presidency, youth cynicism
It's the Economy, Stupid! It is an open secret that U.S. Presidential elections are decided primarily on the state of the U.S. Economy, and the modern youth is just cynical and jaded enough to believe it. Of course, the President has absolutely no idea how to stimulate the economy. In fact, no one really does, except for the semi-mythic figure of Alan Greenspan, who helps the economy grow by deciding not to raise interest rates. What difference does it make who becomes President? Maybe if the public elected the Federal Reserve Board Chairman, who then appointed the president, instead of the other way around . . . (just kidding).
Anyone who is not a Liberal at 18 has no Heart . . . Young people, with more conscience than money, have always tended toward the left, but there seems to be no major liberal candidate; they are all either moderates or Ultra-Right Wing conservatives. The young activist on the college quad simply has no obvious candidate to vote for, not even major issues to help decide. National politics has turned into a horse race of tax- cuts. Young voters, even though they have the power to vote, seem to have no choice. All the candidates look alike, talk alike. An arbitrary choice is not one worth making. Here the media could help immensely. Third-party candidates, like Libertarians could receive more coverage. Human rights issues, the usual fodder for the left, could be brought back into the national consciousness. Tibet, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Chechnya could all receive more attention.
Paradise Lost not only has television changed the face of American politics, it has also changed the nature of American youth. After a childhood spent in front of a television, young people have learned not to believe anything they see on television, from toy commercials to political advertisements to televised speeches. Today's youth do not see actual candidates, they see painted, scripted faces with the sincerity of a used-car salesman. That is why no one seems surprised when a politician is caught lying, or why the young public thrives on conspiracy theories and The Daily Show; that is simply what they expected all along. How can the youth of America take an election seriously, when they know that every line, smile, and handshake are part of a calculated PR campaign? Politicians should put the make-up aside, give up the long, inoffensive speeches that say nothing, and start acting like real people, with real minds and real character. People were shocked when Jesse Ventura was elected governor, but he acted like a real person, he was human, and the people loved him. Give the people an actual person to vote for, not a marketing scheme.
On the Origin of Apathy National Politics are fun, but the form of elected government that most affects people's lives is local government, and the local elected government that affects the lives of young voters the most is the local Board of Education. Here is the first, and maybe the only, chance you have to show young people that the system does indeed work, and is not merely a parade ground of ego and ambition. Last year the Kansas Board of Education took evolution out of the curriculum, and after last year's tragedy in Columbine and in other schools, local school boards reacted with a flurry of reforms, from the oppressing (lock-downs, metal detectors, fences, dogs), to the inane (mesh book-bags, ID tags, tucked-in shirts). Every teenager in the United States knows why those tragedies happened, and they also know that none of these reforms will do anything to prevent future tragedies. They are merely the panicked reaction of a frightened public, but the young people of today see a much different picture. An elected government takes away their civil rights, without any reasonable cause, and they are powerless to stop it. They are told to accept it and move along, and that there is nothing they can do. What good does it do to hand an eighteen- year-old the right to vote, while at the same time showing how pitifully useless it is against the fear of an unreasonable, impetuous mob and a public frenzied enough to support it?
Real reform must start here, at the local level, where ego, ambition, and incompetence are all too easily spotted. America needs serious politicians, eager to serve the people and not eager for power or fame. Only when young Americans have candidates they can take seriously will they ever take voting seriously.
Political participation by young people is plummeting. Many factors seem relevant in this topic. The lack of enthusiasm by the American youth is one. Poor knowledge of candidates and parties as a whole is another factor affecting youth participation. For me, personally, the combination of these and the fact that politicians seem to be contradicting everything they say or do the next day is why I am not active in politics. I do watch the news and read the paper almost every day. But politics has always been stressful. It's easy for the majority of the American public as a whole to get lied to. But I have a hard time swallowing much of what politicians say. The young people of America are angry. Our generation could barely decide on what's for dinner, let alone candidates. Although there are always people who don't fit the stereotype. From what I have seen, the youth of America could care less.
I realize some of the content of this "essay" might not be what some would write in order to win a scholarship. But I am taking the subject seriously and am not trying to brown nose or suck up to win. I am trying to explain my point of view on the subject at hand. Initiatives for voting are nice sounding, but why need it? Why not the knowledge that your vote could make a difference be enough for someone? Because, it's hard for young people and a lot of older people to fathom that there one vote might make a difference. If more information was given to younger people, they might be able to make decisions better. Internet voting seems like a great idea. But with the Internet comes lots of problems, such as hackers. If hackers can screw up many top Internet servers, I'm sure they could mess up voting counts and things like that. Giving people reasons to vote should be plain and simple. It seems that it's a game, and you have to find reasons to play the game. I have every intention of voting once I turn 18. I honestly believe that through the whole process of studying up on candidates and things like that will make me better prepared to make such a decision. The right to vote is taken for granted, along with many other half-rights that we have. People will vote if they want to. There is always going to be that percentage that just doesn't care about anything. Maybe that's why the name Generation X is given. I don't know. But I do know that generalizing a problem doesn't solve it.
ALICIA A RUTLEDGE
Essay themes: increasing awareness and education about voting, making voting easier for young people, Internet voting, easier registration, offering incentives to vote
America has always been a nation that treasures its independences and the rights it protects for its citizens. The government provides several acts ensuring these basic and necessary rights by governing that blacks, women, and finally citizens eighteen years of age and older may vote and thus participate in the rulings of the country in which they reside. However, as the twentieth century has come to a close and the twenty-first century is now underway, the political participation regarding younger groups approaches an appalling decline. To increase this plummeting participation, the government should publicize the voting rights of younger citizens more vividly, offer vast availability of easy-access registration, and provide appealing incentives to the younger generation of voters so as to improve their futures and faith in their native country.
The first objective the government should consider is publication and awareness. Great percentages of young people do not find news broadcasts enjoyable and thus do not bother watching television stations that highlight such programs. As a result, the vast majority of these younger groups are not aware of their voting rights or even the actuality of the voting process. Thus, national campaigns should innovatively create and incorporate informative and exciting advertisements into television and radio broadcasts nationwide, which receive their highest ratings from the younger viewers and listeners. They should direct people on the process of voting, places where they can typically register, as well as the benefits received through active participation in the government. Awareness programs in America's high schools and colleges are also great places to begin campaigns; furthermore, advertisement in teen-oriented magazines and newspaper articles would immensely target an increased number of younger voter candidates. Therefore, by providing means of public awareness, the nation would be on its way to recovery of its youthful citizens' voting power. Subsequently, improved ballot access should be made available and more easily accessible to people under the age of twenty-five. Citizens should be allowed to register the day of voting; such a law would provide a much-increased number of voter turnouts as many would-be voters decline the opportunity because they miss too many days of necessary work or are unable to skip school without an absence and plenty of neglected assignments. If the government were to provide a program of registration through the public school system, just as with young men who have the opportunity to register for the selective service through their high schools at the age of eighteen, many more teenagers would easily be inclined to participate.
Additionally, with the increase of Internet popularity among the younger crowds within the nation, Internet voting would be a very prosperous method of voting seeing as the mass populous has become quite computer savvy over the past decade. Finally, and most importantly, it is of utter necessity to make voting registration more convenient so as to coerce the youthful faction of the nation to engage themselves in the exhilarating world of politics. Finally, political participation by young people can be drastically increased by the development of certain incentives to entice youthful citizens to involve themselves in the politics of their native land. They should be offered the opportunity to express their views concerning political campaigns over the television and radio and other types of public notice nationwide. Such opportunities would reveal to the youth of the nation that they are important and the government does value their involvement-one of the widest expressed justifications of postponing registration by citizens aged twenty-five and younger is that their vote will not make a difference. By involving the younger generation, the government would prove youth's necessity in promoting the health and growth of the nation.
Furthermore, an Election Day holiday would provide both high school and college students with the chance to vote-they would not have to worry about missing valuable educational time or moneymaking work hours. Besides, such a tactic would also grant wider participation from the older working class as well. And, the incentive of students exempt from jury duty just might provide the final thrust towards the registration booth: many young people have expressed their dislike of time-consuming jury duty because they loose money and precious study time partaking in such a prolonged activity. As the government enacts public awareness programs, offers easier access to registration, and persuades the nation's youth with irresistible incentives, an immense impact will be made on younger citizens, including myself. Young people would be more in tune with their own nation and the world as a whole, therefore playing a larger role in their individual futures. Additionally, they would apply crucial decision-making skills and hone the tactics necessary to successfully cope with the responsibility of those choices: the younger representatives of America, Generation 'X', would thus prove to their elders that they couldn't be stereotyped and judged so easily. In conclusion, the impact of awareness, access, and reward is infinite as young people are informed, guided, and coerced into active participation in their nation's democratic government.
Essay themes: Generational conflict between apathy and refusal to question commonly accepted views, youth specific education about registering and the voting process, information about government programs that apply to them
A Time without Zeal
The present generation is truly a reflection of the environment in which it was raised. When told that everything is important, nothing becomes so, and there should be no surprise in the fact that my generation employs the same couch potato attitude towards life as they do towards their fifteen favorite sitcoms. In 1920 William Butler Yeats wrote about this destructive passiveness in his Poem "The Second Coming". Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. In a time when such inflammatory issues such as abortion, entitlements, and foreign military involvement cannot elicit even a mild response from my generation, surely we must agree with Yeats that we "lack all conviction", and we may go even further to say that this generation is numb to the world. How should we go about increasing the political participation of our youth? We first must overcome the apathy rampant in this group of young people, and then we must make their political participation in our system easier.
Most youth feel that local, state, and national politicians do not speak to them, and they have good reason to feel that way. Why should a politician waste his time campaigning for votes that will never be cast? My generation, which seems to eschew responsibility for itself, generally allows its parents to shape the political landscape of the country. Great and monumental decisions that will dramatically affect our future are being made without us.
Increased political participation by young people begins in motivating them. What if each student in a high school or university were to get a voter registration card with a flyer detailing how much they can expect to pay into various entitlement programs over the course of their lifetime? I believe that this would shock many into becoming involved, albeit for a rather selfish reason. Perhaps there could be a series of flyers that students would receive. Reinforcement is important. The message of the voting drive must be heard over the drone of television, self-involvement, and general busyness, and the best way to do this is to shock my generation into action. It would be very difficult for these advertisements to be completely nonpartisan, so I would advocate each party making their own flyers and posters and giving their own speeches. Get the debate rolling in high schools and in college campuses. The candidate himself would probably not be needed in most cases. He might just assign someone at his campaign headquarters to head up the youth voter registration. Political candidates need to see the benefits of helping my generation see the importance of political involvement.
After young people have the desire to vote, they need to have the means. In high schools, perhaps this would involve setting up a mini-voting district in the school that would be open for an hour or two or possibly providing transportation to the nearest voting district. On college campuses, making the vote more accessible would involve coming up with a better alternative to the absentee ballot. In order for college students that live away from home to use an absentee ballot, they must go through the process of obtaining a ballot before they leave for school in August. Even if these college students are able to go home between August and November, they cannot get an absentee ballot on the weekend. Opportunities exist for college students to vote away from home in major elections, but not in the local matters that are most likely to significantly affect them. The most obvious solution is that each voting district should have an Intranet site where a registered voter who is away from home can vote on local, state, and national matters. I do not suggest a generalized Internet site because of the huge risk of voter fraud. These Intranet terminals could be placed not only at polling places, but also in a college's student affairs department and in a town's city hall. Accessibility would be key because local elections are not always on the same days. These terminals must be in a place where fraud could be prevented.
When asked about how to increase voter participation of young people, most people seem to favor making the process more accessible to them, but this ignores the problem underlying low voter turnout. Young people have access to everything they need to make straight A's, but many choose not to use these resources. They are pummeled with information about health and safety, but few listen. Increasing accessibility to the electoral system is a positive step, but unless young people are motivated to vote, this increased accessibility for naught. Voter indifference must be attacked at its root, and only after the weed is gone can we increase the number of voter-seeds planted. With proper cultivation, these voter-seed will yield a bountiful harvest on Election Day.
What changes in our electoral system would increase political participation by young people, and why is it important to me and people like me? The most common way a citizen participates in political life is by voting. By casting their ballots, citizens help govern society and themselves and are able to fashion policies in the public interest. Furthermore, through participation, individuals can put aside personal concerns and learn about one another's political goals and needs. However, statistics show that the percentage of Americans voting in presidential elections as well as other elections, has declined immensely over the years, and is still declining today. For example, in the presidential election of 1960, 62 percent of registered voters voted, while in 1996, only 50 percent voted. A majority of these non-voters are young people between the ages of 18 to 26 year old who do not vote for several reasons, such as the fact that they do not highly regard the government.
To reduce the high rate of voter apathy, political experts suggest that the government consider certain political reforms including "lowering the voting age, making Election Day a holiday and shifting the Election Day from Tuesday to Sunday, election-day voter registration, as well as a national registration system," and much more. Such reforms as this one will help boost voter participation as well as strengthen the political system as a whole.
Before the Twenty-sixth Amendment accorded 18 year olds the right to vote, "many people questioned whether Congress has the power to set the voting age in state and local elections." The Vietnam War, which occurred in the 60's resulted in the moral debate which lead to 18 year olds assuming the right to vote since they were drafted into the military by the government. As well as in those days, this rhetorical question should not be ignored or overlooked today.
Juveniles, even 12 year olds are sometimes tried as adults for committing heinous crimes such as murder. They are sentenced to jail on the basis that they were alert when they did what they did. In these circumstances, the justice system makes an exception by deeming them adults; nevertheless they don't have the right to vote as adults do. If Columbine shooters Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, were alive today, they would probably be tried as adults for the outrageous and atrocious acts they committed. If an individual is considered an adult in this circumstance, why don't they and people like us have the right to vote? Are we just slaves in this unjust world based on age discrimination, or are we some kind of experimental species? I can't explain that, but one thing I can explain vividly is the fact that I am a 16 year old high school senior who vehemently articulates that the government's practices are inequitable since we are denied the rights of a responsible citizen - voting rights. A majority of citizens ages 15 to 18 have to work each and every day after school, yet they don't have an opinion in the government that establishes their job policies. Others get kicked out form their homes, or run away from their homes, therefore they have to care for themselves from that time onwards. They live in a world where they have to act as mature adults and their personal guardians, yet they are denied the rights of mature adults. That's not fair, therefore Congress should consider lowering the voting age so as to involve valuable citizens when framing policies that would affect the public as a whole.
Additionally, a majority of citizens who are non-voters and don't vote because they do not meet state voting requirements. Most states require voters to be residents of the state for a certain period before they are allowed to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 created a residence period of 30 days in all elections. Nevertheless, one problem in meeting residency and registration standards is that American society is highly mobile. An individual is required to register in order to vote 30 days before Election Day in most states. Most political advocates support a national registration system which will enable a voter's registration to follow him to a new state when he moves because experts estimate "that almost one-fifth of Americans move to a new location every five years, and a new resident might forget to register or find that the registration offices are open at inconvenient times."
In addition, advocates also support the enactment of an Election Day registration system so that citizens can be allowed to vote if they want to on Election Day despite neglecting to register 30 days earlier. This procedure has already been enacted in Wisconsin and Minnesota, thereby increasing voter participation in these states. This system will also help people like myself who like to procrastinate to politically participate.
Last but not least, a reform which will escalate voter participation is the holiday policy. If Election Day was a holiday, it would make the practice of voting more convenient for voters who will not have to take time from work in order to vote. Furthermore, if Election Day was shifted from Tuesday to Sunday, it will also help out voters. To further legitimize this particular policy, I conducted a poll which involved my friends, and certain neighbors ages 18 to 26: 94 percent of people polled said that they will vote if Election Day was a holiday, while 67 percent said that they prefer Congress change the Election Day from Tuesday to Sunday. Although these results might not represent the opinions of a majority of Americans, it is imperative that Congress seriously consider making major election days holidays.
The United States of America reportedly has the lowest voter
turnout in the world among mature democracies on average. This
is pitiful considering America is the most powerful nation in
the world today. As voter turnout continues to decrease, the
long term implications are as detrimental to the nation as the
Great Depression was to the world. Our political leaders should
"consider changes that will allow voters to see a real connection
between their votes and policy." As Thomas Jefferson said, "Laws
and Institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the
human mind," so therefore we should stand united and enact a
"New Deal" that will scintillate in the people's mind and increase
political participation by young people.