Essays from Idaho


ASHLEE M. DECKER
COEUR D ALENE, ID
High school student
Born: 1983
Essay themes: Add voting restrictions

JEREMY D HUDSON
RATHDRUM, ID
College student
Born: 1976
Essay themes: The lack of education and awareness concerning issues that effect young people, political education of young people by schools and parents

JANA LEACHMAN
LEWISTON, ID
College student
Born: 1981
Essay themes: Eradicating Electoral College, campaigning limits, none of the above ballot option

KATRINA KAUFFMAN
BOISE, ID
High school student
Born: 1982
Essay themes: Civics education, role models, history

ASHLEE M. DECKER
COEUR D ALENE, ID
High school student
Born: 1983
Essay themes: Add voting restrictions

Political participation by young people is plummeting. This is because young people feel as if they are being ignored. Young people yearn to make a difference, yet with the electoral system, they feel as if they can do nothing. The electoral system takes the population's vote, and generalizes it. That way, a person's vote counts only partially in determining the electoral vote. Since it takes many electoral votes to determine a president, they feel as if their vote means nothing. This is especially true of smaller states, such as Idaho (my state), where even if your one vote did break a tie, chances are that your state won't be the tie-breaker. The younger population sees voting as no big deal, but they don't realize that they really can make a difference. When people age, they see how the system tends to work from a distance, and realize that if enough of the non-voters only got out and voted, that it would create a giant impact on our future.

Although I myself am only 16, and would love to vote, I have to say that lowering the voting age would not do the system justice. Although I believe certain citizens, such as myself, are mature enough to vote. For this reason I would absolutely love to lower the voting age. On the other hand, others my age are very immature. Giving up my right to vote is worth it, assuming that I am gaining the fact that millions of immature people would NOT be voting, therefore, they have no impact on not only my future, but no impact on that of the whole United States of America. As I previously stated, I would not trust certain people my age to determine our future, but I would not trust many other people to vote who are of age as well. In this case I would actually raise the voting age. Honestly, I think that 25 is an excellent voting age. This is because at the age of 16, in most states, you are just receiving you driving license, and received the privilege of being able to work full time, and at the hours that you want. At the age of 18, you can move out, and even get married. By the age of 21, you can consume alcoholic beverages. This way, by the age of 25, you would have had time to experience a good taste of life, and be able to understand the importance of your vote.

Of course, raising the voting age to such a high number would cause numerous riots, rallies, and so-forth, but it would not cause the political arousal that would come from terminating the electoral system altogether. There is a way to get around this, however. You could create specific guidelines, as well as a test to be taken, for those who want to vote, but are under the age. There are many guidelines that I would suggest. First of all, I would require that the voters must either have a high school diploma, GED, or currently be enrolled in a high school or college program. This would decrease the drop-out rate, as well as help with determining the stamina of the voters. The next requirement would be a clean record of any crimes, or driving incidents. This would prove the responsibility of the voters. If there were any drug or alcohol related incidents on their records, they immediately would not be disqualified. This would not only serve as an incentive to stay away from these things, but would also help America to not be founded on these things either. Last, I would suggest that in order to be eligible, you need to be at least old enough to be in high school, so that you have enough knowledge to understand the basics of "the system."

For the people that are eligible, I would produce a standard test. This test would only be given to those who are fully eligible, with no exceptions made. The test would consist of some basic math and English problems, to show that they at least possess common knowledge, and then there would be questions concerning everyday life, to show that they have an understanding of the world around them. These would all be multiple choice. Then, at the end of the test, there would be an essay question. This question would be on a topic such as 'Discuss the pros and cons of two the presidents running for office. Be specific and include details.' This essay question would be judged for neatness, legibility, use of language, descriptions, and creativeness. Most importantly, the essay question would be used to determine whether the potential voter understood politics or not, which would determine their eligibility to vote. This test would be corrected by a committee dedicated to these essays. They would be collected once every six months. If the person passed with a 90% or above, they would be granted the privilege to vote, until they either turned 25, or broke one of the requirements (for example, got in a wreck while intoxicated, or dropped out of school). The percentage to pass on the test would be this high because it would be a great privilege to be able to vote under the age of 25. This would cause people under that age to strive to achieve the right to vote. It would also seem more special to those who just turned 25, because they have been deprived from it, and at this age, realize that they can make a difference. Realizing that voting is a privilege, and that one person really can make a difference, is the key to getting young people to vote. I believe that the idea that I have proposed in this essay would work wonderfully. This system would be the best way to increase the number of young voters, as well as to increase the quality of them.


JEREMY D HUDSON
RATHDRUM, ID
College student
Born: 1976
Essay themes: The lack of education and awareness concerning issues that effect young people, political education of young people by schools and parents

Collectively, the declination of statistical voting by the greater majority of youth, by my local assessment, appears owing to both lack of interest (concern) and lack of awareness or comprehension detailing the candidates and/or issues involved. Although a variety of reformation considerations have been constructive, more particularly Election Day voter registration, there is indeed a considerable need for development. From my perception, a significant number of voters my age simply lack the patriotism or the grasp of its significance to motivate a decision to vote. What, as a nation or as individuals, could we do to improve this? Neither is the answer simple nor obvious, yet rationally it seems to me and to a number of my peers that many of the candidates we are to vote for do not project much empathy to the youth that they wish to participate in their election. In explanation, most young adults do not feel we are being heard in the vote.

What issues would directly affect us? Will there be any amplitude in change by casting our vote? These questions have silently been asked for years, but the answers have been held captive, possibly held responsible by either the youth's ignorance of candidacy (perhaps due to poor campaigning with a lack of focus on the younger generation), or our unawareness or lack of benefit from the issues at hand. As an example, the lack of programs for availability of low-income housing or financial assistance in conjunction with aid for young single mothers keeps many of them away from the polls. Since it is statistically proven that voting turnout from lower income communities is low as well, it can be imagined how little low-income youths decide to vote. Any programs that suggest possible assistance to these areas are bound to attract its proposed beneficiary's attention. Furthermore, financial aid for both students and learning institutions seems to frequently get smashed by healthcare facilities and retirement benefits, not predominantly as a result of the elderly's greater percentage of voter-turnout, but consequently due to lack of public awareness and personal concern. The elderly are well aware of their health, yet the younger generation is oblivious of the future of the quality of our education. Who is to blame for this? The parents? The education system? The students themselves? D: All of the above.

Beyond blame, what can be done to remedy this? Parents and schools, in my opinion, bear the greatest crux of this influence. A student must be provided with the tools necessary to formulate and to voice our thoughts, opinions and concerns. With the correct knowledge base and positive influence, a young adult will be more apt to render the choice to vote, and we will consequently have a much more authoritative grasp on the issues presented to us. It then becomes our responsibility to get out there and do it. With that in mind, what would make voting unproblematic and more within reach, as well as more straightforward to young mind? Our technologically growing era suggests that if voter registration and voting were to become available and operational online, it is guaranteed to establish a healthier and quicker benefit from not only our young generation of voters, but the greater majority of Americans who may have a disability or other such inaccessibility to the voting booth.

In summation, our younger generation's choice to vote is directly proportional to the issues that affect us and will favor the candidate who focuses on those concerns. So, what changes in our electoral system would increase political participation by young people? In my opinion, the electoral system is suitable; our country's foundation was appropriately established by our forefathers. The problem is not our structure of election, but rather the manner in which we manage it. Necessity gives rise to action, therefore establish a necessity in order to elicit the younger generation's voice. Let us know our vote will make a difference to us.


JANA LEACHMAN
LEWISTON, ID
College student
Born: 1981
Essay themes: Eradicating Electoral College, campaigning limits, none of the above ballot option

Of the People, By the People, and For the People

Political participation by young people is declining at a rapid rate due partially to the complexity of the voting process and a simple lack of interest. However, many possible and practical reforms could help bring this nation's youth back into the voting arena. While doing away with the Electoral College would be a primary reform, other reforms would also help. These include shorter campaigns, a "none of the above" voting option, a publicized chart of candidates' positions on issues, and a nationwide 24-hour polling period.

The President and Vice President should be elected by popular vote instead of the Electoral College system. The Electoral College does not necessarily represent the peoples' views. First, the electors of each state are not bound by law to vote the way their state voted. Second, though a candidate may win the Electoral College votes, that does not mean he/she necessarily won the popular vote. Abolishing the Electoral College will give young voters a sense of power. They will know that their votes held as much influence as everyone else's did.

Placing a six-week limitation on campaigns would keep young adults from losing interest in political races, and it would also help them to elect a candidate based on their positions. Nowadays, voters often elect a candidate because of a "neat" commercial they saw. They don't take time to find out where a candidate stands on issues and what ideas he/she has in mind for the future of this country. Therefore, candidates spend massive amounts of money to make and air those "neat" commercials, while their actual positions are pushed to the background. Having shorter campaign periods would not only reduce the amount of money spent on campaigns, it would help inform the voters on where different candidates stand, in turn helping voters elect the candidate that is best for the future of America.

Including a "none of the above" option on voting ballots would give young voters a louder voice. Without this option, voters feel as if they have to vote for one of the candidates on the ballot or not vote at all. If young people do not like any of the candidates, they could choose "none of the above." If "none of the above" wins, then a new election with new candidates would have to take place within six weeks. This would give young voters the chance to find candidates that express their views and are best suited to represent them.

A publicized chart of candidates' positions on issues would require candidates to make clear-cut statements of how they would deal with certain issues and how they propose to fund their plans. This chart would help all voters identify which candidate most closely matches their views and beliefs. This would especially help young voters who are often confused by all the political factors added into campaigns.

A nationwide 24-hour polling period without media predictions of winners would encourage all voters, particularly voters in the west, to vote. Often, before voters in the west have gone to the polls, the media claims to already know who the winner is. This is highly discouraging to voters in the west because they feel as if their vote no longer makes a difference. Therefore, they don't even bother to vote. If voters in the west have no idea how close the race is or who is ahead, they will be much more likely to vote, thinking that their votes can make a difference. If elections were based on the popular vote, this would especially be true.

Young people need to be involved in the voting arena because they are directly affected by it. Many issues, such as abortion, minimum wage, school funding, and scholarship funding are affected drastically based on who is elected. Young people need to have a say in these issues; therefore, they need to make their voices heard.

Voting not only helps young people to be heard, it helps them develop the habit of getting involved in government. As time goes by, it will soon be the young people holding elected offices. The sooner young people are incorporated into the system, the better prepared they will be to take it over when the time comes.

In order for our nation's youth to become more involved in government, the voting system needs to be reformed. It should be a less complicated system in which the voters directly hold the power. Eradicating the Electoral College and replacing it with the popular vote, limiting campaigns to six weeks, incorporating a "none of the above" ballot option, requiring a clear-cut chart of candidates' positions on issues, and voting in a 24-hour nationwide polling period without media predictions are a few suggestions that would help accomplish this goal. If America's youth do not soon become more involved, our nation risks losing its basic foundation: government of the people, by the people, and for the people.


JANA LEACHMAN
LEWISTON, ID
College student
Born: 1981
Essay themes: eradicating Electoral College, campaigning limits, none of the above ballot option

Before you can develop an innovative approach to fix the obvious problem of declining voter participation, you must first think of the reasons that cause the problem in the first place. I am studying political science and this was a topic discussed in class. It really surprised me to find out how little interest there is in the government by people my own age. The majority of my class just seems to think that while the economy is on a role, and if the government is working, then there isn't much need to inconvenience oneself to make it to the polls and cast a vote. It seems that as long as they are able to reap the benefits they have no need to participate in the voting process or influence changes at the polls.

At least that is the opinion of my political science class. The rest of my friends are just out of high school and they are so wrapped up in themselves, trying to reflect upon their lives to determine a plan for their future. If something doesn't directly affect them, then they just don't let it become a part of their life. It is for that very reason that I propose increasing the participation of the young voters by making it worth their time and effort to participate in the political system. Becoming a registered voter and voting should be a condition to receive financial aid from that same government. As a male, I was required to register for the selective service draft before I was eligible to receive government assistance. Why not make it law that all students who receive assistance from the government that are eligible to vote be required to assist in the political process? I understand that voting is a privilege for the citizens of this great nation and people should have a right to abstain from voting. I would simply require the students to receive the ballet. If they do not wish to vote, then a blank ballet can be turned in. However, if the students know that they will receive the ballot and they must actually go to the polls, they may take an interest in the candidates and issues and make their voice heard. The action to make financial aid available to only the students that participate in the voting process will work and is easily accomplished. The reason it will work is that the action of voting will be directly correlated to receiving financial aid. The act of voting will directly impact the student's life.

To avoid voter fraud, voting laws already make a public record of those participating in an election. If a law was written to mandate voting as a prerequisite to receiving financial aid, it should also include a system of reporting active voters to a national database. This would allow the colleges and the federal agency to determine if you qualify for federal aid. The other reason to enact a mandatory participation law is to develop the habit of voting as young adults. As young children we were taught to walk and talk, and learned so many things through example. The point is that we had to be shown first. In the infancy of our adult lives we also need to be encouraged to participate in our civic responsibilities. By requiring some participation in return for aid to further our education, we would become active players in the adult world and understand the individual's role and power in our system of government.

I believe that there would have to be an immense change in thinking by the politicians as they campaign. The Internet could play an enormous role in sending political messages to the younger computer literate generation that spends so much time online. The politicians are going to have to tap into this resource to reach the younger adults and gain voter support.

As far as the effect on young people like myself, I believe that it will help our patriotism grow. It will help our understanding and support of the government become stronger, and as young citizens we will start to finally feel like part of a greater entity. My generation has never been part of something larger than ourselves like a depression or a war effort. It has never had to be part of a rationing program or any other national sacrifice. The fact is that my generation has been spoiled with some of the lowest poverty rates, some of the lowest unemployment rates and the highest standard of living ever known. Voting participation is down because there is no pressing concerns to push young people to the polls as soon as they reach voting age. It is only after you enter the workforce and begin an investment in family and the future that political issues have a greater impact. By this time, the voting pattern has been set and it will be difficult to turn out first time voters. By motivating voters at a younger age, their participation in the system will be more assured throughout their life. I think that strong measures are called for if we are to keep our political system alive and healthy in this new millennium. That is why I advocate a mandatory voting requirement as an obligation of receiving student financial aid. Polling places are often found on college campuses or the local elementary schools. It seems a logical extension to make higher education a place to learn the civic responsibility of voting.


KATRINA KAUFFMAN
BOISE ID
High school student
Born: 1982
Essay themes: Civics education, role models, history

The twentieth century has been visited with wars, a moral decline, an economic increase and a backfiring political system. The generation of the millennium looks back on this history and sees a world it knows nothing about, doesn't care about, and cannot change. Regardless of the truthfulness of this statement, this generation will not join a system they see as corrupt and unresponsive. The only way to pique their interest and change a failing system is through education. Right now we don't teach the youth about politics and their importance in everyday life. They don't see how only by their involvement, they can rid the corruption and winding down republic. We must go into the schools and show them how their student government is the perfect starting place. By giving those positions more power and respect, my generation might begin to see how by themselves they can change the larger system. There is so much focus on the United States in our education. I was not even taught where our government got its basis until I was a senior in high school. By now most of my classmates don't even care. They are tired of learning the same thing over again without being challenged. By emphasizing the world at large, you will begin to show them the important role that the United States plays as a leader. They will also see how important it is to get involved with voting for the presidential candidates and their congressional leaders.

As lucky as I am to have parents who raised me caring about the political process, most of my friends are not. Too many adults have lost faith in the system because it is so corrupt. My Literature teacher talks about how Idaho has gone to such a one party corrupt system, he no longer cares to participate. This man is well versed, very intelligent, a father, teacher, and mentor. He has been so alienated by politics that instead of encouraging people he discourages. The only way to change this is for the leaders to become uncorrupt. People are tired of hearing that Congress votes based on the latest polls. The people elected them to be representative and think with their own heads. They don't want people who will do anything to get the support of one party and one group.

Students feel small. They are only one, what can they do? When they stop and think about this, they know that isn't logical. We have all heard of the girl who saved the school bird by running into the fire. But that seems so remote to students who walk through halls worrying about what they are wearing, who likes who, and who might pick on them next. By making it a more commonplace occurrence, you eliminate the remote feelings of the students. You change their way of thinking by giving them experiments and exercise in the power of one. They stop thinking about the white boy who led the freedom of the African people in The Power of One and they start thinking about themselves as leaders and powerful people.

Most people won't argue with you when you say the government is corrupt. My class grew up with the Reagan and Clinton scandals. They saw the one party trying to get so much power that they tried to destroy the other party. We expect that when people run, the other candidates will find everything they have done wrong and bring it to our attention. We are fully aware that the power these men and women are being given is corrupting them. The problem lies in how we fix this. James Madison theorized that people would be corrupted by offic"A- He was so afraid that he put in separation of powers and checks and balances in the constitution. He also relied on the goodness of the human spirit. He believed that people would only elect good people.

I don't believe as Madison did. Though I don't think all people are bad, there is so little to prove otherwise. Until the law begins to reflect this pessimistic view of humans and tries to change it, Madison will remain wrong. How can I believe in a system that lets a gunman walk into a school and kill my classmates? How can I participate in a system that does not punish racism, ageism, sexism and any other of the "isms?" That is the way we look at the world. The surrounding violence has stunned us into just coexisting instead of changing. The system can't be brought back until this fundamental wrong is corrected.

Once you educate the public great things can begin to happen. The republican system that our forefathers put into place can begin to work again. We will be able to elect leaders that can stand up and believe in something no matter what it costs them. We will have more freedom for all people. We will increase our morals and stop the fighting that goes on everyday. We will enrich the lives of every person by enabling them to look at the bigger picture. They will be educated enough to see what they are doing and advance society for worthy causes. Our development will stop being to destroy people. The society can become a stronger unit as long as the generations to come remain uncorrupted and realistic.

It will not be easy to get my generation to participate in government. They have been disillusioned. I don't even know if changing the problems that have already existed will matter to them. But, it will give hope for future generations. "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never has been and never will be," said Thomas Jefferson. Only by educating people can you change the way they see the political system. It is not enough to criticize, ridicule, and forget the system that has worked for the United States for so long. Let us throw off the chains of ignorance and embrace the splendor of education.