Essays from Indiana


ANN BUTKIEWIC
TERRE HAUTE, IN
High school student
Born: 1982
Essay themes: Teen forum with candidates, increased accessibility of registration information, making voting easier

SHAVONNE JOHNSON
INDIANAPOLIS, IN
Born: 1979
Essay themes: Political education, outreach to young people from older generations, young people's responsibility

JENNIFER MARTY
SYRACUSE, IN
College student
Born: 1980
Essay themes: Perceived lack of voter influence, college student accessibility

SARA NIEDERHAUS
GREENFIELD, IN
High school student
Born: 1981
Essay themes: Life styles more busy than ever before, voter education classes

DANIEL TWEEDALL II
EVANSVILLE, IN
High school student
Born: 1982
Essay theme: Electoral College

ANN BUTKIEWIC
TERRE HAUTE, IN High school student
Born: 1982

Essay themes: Teen forum with candidates, increased accessibility of registration information, making voting easier

Voting is perhaps the most important part of our Democratic government. Unfortunately, the young people of our country have not been very active in political participation. There are many reasons people may give for not voting. Some reasons for poor participation by young people are that they do not know enough about the candidates or the voting process. Others think it is hard to register to vote or do not know how to register. Still others believe that they are only one person and cannot make a difference. If many people took that view, and many do, it could mean hundreds of votes lost. That could decide the fate of a candidate. Some races come down to the last fifty or one hundred votes. Other times a candidate has a lead in advance polls, so voters that would come out figure the decision has already been made. In those elections, the underdog may win if his supporters come out and the leading candidate's crew fails to vote.

One way to learn more about the views of candidates is to watch debates. While debates are televised, they are often not as exciting as a sports event or prime time television shows. They can also be long and hard to follow. I think that a teen forum should be held in which candidates stated their platforms without political jargon and mudslinging, and teens could as questions about what the candidate's plans are for office if he or she is elected. In this way, teens might be able to sketch an idea of their political beliefs.

I also think that registering to vote should be made more available. If my government teacher had not of brought voter registration papers to her classes, I wouldn't have had the slightest idea where to register. I didn't know that I could register at age 17 and vote in the primary if I would be 18 by our November presidential election. I think that voter registration papers should be made available at all high school and college campuses. Registering to vote does not require you to choose a political party and the form is easy to fill out, if you know where to get it. There should also be programs at schools to encourage young people to vote, and give them the means to do it with. One suggestion could even be to have voting booths in high schools. Students who were old enough to vote would then have the access right there. It would alleviate the problem of young people having to wake up early to vote because they have to work after school, or that they do not have a ride to their voting venue. The Internet is another issue to consider in increasing voter turnout. The Internet is becoming a place where you can do almost anything, why not vote. Young people have grown up with computers and many utilize their skills with this new technology everyday. There are secure browsers for safety when doing online banking, purchasing items with a credit card, accessing personal mail, the list goes on and on. This system could easily be used for voting. It would be fast, convenient, and you wouldn't even have to leave the comfort of your home. The voting process should be brought into the new millennium with the technology and communication systems of this era, the Internet.

Voting is important because we are fortunate enough to live in a country where almost anyone can vote, and almost anyone can run to become an elected official. If you do not vote, then you are giving up your right to vote, and your right to criticize our government. The only way to change something you do not like in our government is to vote for someone who has the interest and support to change that issue. I also believe that young people need to get out and vote because otherwise our views will not be heard. We represent a new generation and need to elect officials who will consider our ideas when they vote on an issue. Voting sends your ideas all across the country, it does make a difference.

SHAVONNE JOHNSON
INDIANAPOLIS, IN
Born: 1979

Essay themes: Political education, outreach to young people from older generations, young people's responsibility

How to Feel Empowered

How to feel empowered, as a young voter is one of the most important issues that young Americans face. Voters between the ages of 18 and 24 are the age group least likely to vote. Why is this? It is most likely because young voters feel their votes do not count and politicians do not care about the issues of young America. Young adults at this age are coming into their own and are just beginning to break the ties from their home and family. Most are still under the shelter of their parents mentally and financially with very limited responsibilities. With this in mind, young adults do not take a vested interest in the political world during election time because they do not believe the issues directly affects their lives. Those who take the most interest in the political system in America and vote are those who are married, work for a living, have children and own property. The percentage of young adults who have these attributes is very low compared to other age groups. For most young adults this is the time in life when many are still in school or just beginning to enter the workforce. Young people are not allowed to vote until they are 18 years of age. At this age they are more concerned with their own short-term thoughts and not on what affects them in the long run. The concerns of future policy, a political candidate presently running for office is speaking about does not override their own agenda. Students in college can feel disconnected, especially if they are away from home. A majority of college students simply do not want to take the time to acquire an absentee ballot to vote in their home state or county elections.

How can we rectify this situation? We as a nation need to make it easier for all people to vote. Same day registration and easier absentee access would surely help voter turnout among young people. Voting using the Internet would be a viable solution. The key to really changing America's thoughts on young voters is education and socialization. The community, teachers, and parents must insure they are passing on the important value of being a voting citizen. The best way to do this is to lead by example. If the older population does not vote, how can they expect the younger generation to vote? Citizens who are 18 years of age received the right to vote in 1971 by way of the 26th Amendment. Ignoring a given civil right once excluded goes against the very nature of being a virtuous citizen. That is why educating voters on the history of voting in America, especially when it comes to learning about extending the power vote to certain disenfranchised gender, racial, and economic groups throughout history.

Many young people still decline to vote. This could be possible due to the widening of the generation gap. When they look at the available candidates to choose from they see politicians sometimes two to three times their age. They feel disconnected from them because they do not think their issues and concern will be taken seriously and addressed. How can this gap be lessened? Young voters need to know that voting is one of the simplest forms of being an active and empowered citizen but it is not the only one. Taking time out to allow themselves to become involved with their local government in some form, whether it is through a summer internship or just volunteering, is a way to be more empowered. There needs to be more reach-out opportunities coming from the mature generations that will engage not only newly enfranchised voters, but also those under the voting age as well. These do not have to necessarily be partisan programs, but one that would teach and instill the fundamental value and importance of each person's vote. Adults should take part any way they can, especially in any mentoring programs that would enhance a young person's understanding of the political process. Young voters, on the other hand, have to also take their future into their own hands. They have to realize that decisions elected officials make today will ultimately affect them when they become older adults. The power is in the vote and the vote can make anyone stop and listen. They have to understand that if they band together as a cohesive group and go out and vote their concerns can and will be listened to as much as older voters. What many young voters do not realize is that, unfortunately, politicians and candidates listen to the citizens that actually go out and vote the closest. They have a lot of constituents to reach so they will choose to spend more time on the concern of voters who they know will at least vote. This does not mean that all is lost, but young voters ultimately cannot wait for anyone else to make them count; they have to empower themselves and that has to start on Election Day.


JENNIFER MARTY
SYRACUSE, IN
College student
Born: 1980

Essay themes: Perceived lack of voter influence, college student accessibility
What is most of my campus going to be doing on Election Day? Hmmm. I am sure that this is not a trick question. Most of us will either be sitting through class after class. If Election Day is on a weekend, then it is up to the imagination as to what will be going on. Please notice the fact that I do not even know when Election Day is. I might when the time comes closer, but for the moment, I fall under the typical ignorant category. That is the problem, though. Politics bore me, and, quite frankly, I think I speak for many of my peers when I say that I am so incredibly tired of the mudslinging contests that go on in this nation. I have a couple of suggestions for the hierarchies as to how to motivate me to vote. First of all, make it quite clear what is in it for the voters. Sure, the lawmakers and even the president are influential people in our lives, but it sure does not feel like we have any say in what goes on in Washington unless there is an all-school petition sent in with tens of thousands of names. It is hard enough to get a professor or department to change a curriculum, even when everyone protests, so how are we going to change this country? One little vote? Speakers can come, or even run specials on our school's television station. Most professors in related departments will give extra credit for attending such lectures or watching the program. Also, gear information to each department. Educators want to know what each candidate will do for children and the educational systems. Health and fitness majors will most likely want to know what is happening with health issues, as will the medical students. This should not be so hard to figure out. Second, there are 38,000 voters on my campus, which is more than 5 times the number of people in my hometown. Just about every walk of life is represented here, as well. There is also the fact that we are the ones who are the closest to being the next group of CEO's and employees. Yet, I do not recall ever hearing that any politicians were coming to meet us and shake our hands. Sure they have a busy schedule, but in our world of studying and working to pay tuition - a busy schedule is their problem and if they want our vote, then take time to meet our needs. That, combined with our ignorance as to where, how, and when to vote, is causing severe deficits in numbers of voters. The Internet has become such a widely used tool that secure on-line voting is one idea. Voting by hall is another possibility, or even just having a voting site in one of the main campus classroom buildings would be greatly appreciated. Having a voting holiday is a personal favorite, but mid-week is the best time. That way we would actually stick around campus and vote. Finally, ditch the trash talk and junk mail. I want to see, in a creative and attention-retaining format, what each candidate is doing for me. Just as in a job application, I want to see at least two references. One from family or friends, and one from an employer. I want to know qualifications, and not just the goody-goody stuff. What are the weaknesses that each candidate finds in him/herself? Not necessarily speaking in terms of past faults, but in character. I want to know a human being that is honest and will continue to be, but I want to know him/her for real, not just as a face on the television or a cartoon in a newspaper. The way to get my vote and the votes of my peers is to give us a little time and solid evidence as to why we should care at all. In the same way one interviews for a job position, so does one earn a vote. Would I meet my future employer? Yes. Would I be cordial to him/her and work around his/her time? Yes. Would I go in and degrade another potential employee during an interview? No. Would my resume be honest and come with references as well as a professional format? Yes. I would do everything possible to help that employer see that I am one step up from the rest and that I have something to offer that no other candidate has. Ladies and gentlemen, that is how to get a vote.


SARA NIEDERHAUS
GREENFIELD, IN
High school student
Born: 1981

Essay themes: Life styles more busy than ever before, voter education classes
Wanted: Education and Time

The truth: people living the busy lifestyle that Americans have today do not have time to vote. Instead of taking their lives day by day, they rush through them, anticipating each new day. In addition to the rush, citizens uneducated in politics choose to avoid the mess altogether. By educating voters and future voters of the United States and providing time for the voting process, the overall number of voters would increase.

Before a student graduates from high school, he or she must take and pass government and economics classes. One way of educating voters about the voting process and ballots could include requiring an intended voter's class similar to the economics and government classes. The class could teach about elections and inform students of their role in the election process. In addition to educating people about the process, a couple of "free" days at schools would benefit those who are uneducated about the candidates. A period of time as short as three hours each day could provide enough information for a student to decide and understand each candidate's issues. By offering more information and voting-based classes, students would better understand the voting process, know why they should vote, and be familiar with some of the opposing issues.

While managing his time in his busy lifestyle, a person, especially a student, has trouble finding a chance to travel to a voting booth to vote. Those who work must find a time when they are not working to take time out to vote. Many students participate in sports, clubs, band, or other extra-curricular activities, causing conflicts with the time allowed for voting. In order to work around these conflicts, election days should be holidays. This way, more people would be off work, and students could vote during the time that they would normally be attending school. With Election Day being a holiday, more places, such as post offices, banks, libraries, and other federal offices, would be closed, causing people to put off running their errands for at least one additional day. Even if these businesses were not closed, everything, including malls, grocery stores, and restaurants, could close early. This would cause people to find other ways to spend their evenings. If people had this extra time to themselves, they could not use the excuse that they did not have the time to vote.

After a long, stressful day at work, some people like to come straight home to relax. They do not want to delay this relaxation another hour or so just to vote. If a person could vote where he or she works, people would not have to spend extra time driving to their designated polling stations to vote. It would be so convenient that more registered voters would vote, and more people, seeing the more easily accessible facilities, would register to become voters. In the same manner, students could vote during lunch or a passing period, making the process more convenient for them. Additionally, not all students have transportation to their voting assignments. Having the opportunity to vote at school would solve this problem, resulting in a more representative election.

As argued above, numerous people who meet the voting eligibility requirements choose not to vote for various reasons. Some cannot take time from their busy schedules; others are uneducated about the subject. By requiring classes to teach students about the election process and informing them about the candidates, they are more confident in their choices. Forcing businesses to close all day or lock their doors early creates more time for citizens to cast their ballots. Lastly, creating places for people so they can vote while they are at work eliminates the rush to relax at home and the excuse about not having enough time. Everyone should vote; but those who do not should always remember that George Jean Nathan once said, "Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote."


DANIEL TWEEDALL II
EVANSVILLE, IN
High school student
Born: 1982

Essay theme: Electoral College

The Squeaky Wheel

The word democracy comes from the Greek words demos, which means "the people," and kratia, meaning "rule." The word democracy succinctly defines itself: democracy is a form of government ruled by and for the people. As Americans, we put our faith in the principle of "one man, one vote," knowing it is we who ultimately decide the fate of our government ... or do we? When looking to Article II, Section one of our Constitution, we find this may not be the case in the election of our president. Young voters, such as myself, are aware of this, and some feel little responsibility in voting knowing that the Electoral College breaks the voice of American voters into mere fragments. The Electoral College system has become antiquated and is now in desperate need of change.

The Electoral College system opens up the Pandora's Box of electors not voting as instructed to by the American people. This problem has arisen as early as the first contested presidential election between Adams and Jefferson in 1796, to as late as 1988. Samuel Miles, the first elector to break the tacit contract of voting by the choice of the American people, prompted the complaint, "What, do I choose Samuel Miles to determine for me whether John Adams or Thomas Jefferson shall be President? No! I choose him to act, not to think." Even today, 60% of the states do not legally bind their electors to vote as instructed, and only 10% of the states issue a penalty for not voting correctly. While the odds are low, the idea that one elector could change the course of history is incredibly disturbing.

Even worse is that the winner of the popular election, the choice of the people, does not always become president. Three times in American history we have had a president take office who did not win the popular vote. Other problems surface as well. In 1992, Bill Clinton won Florida's 25 electors and Ohio's 21 even though he had less than half the vote in either state; likewise, Bob Dole won Texas' 32 electors with less than a majority of the popular vote. The mathematics that underlies the Electoral College system is frightening. Let's examine a hypothetical situation almost identical to our country's current state. Under the assumption that all states used the general ticket system, all electors were faithful, there are only two candidates, and if a candidate lost a state the candidate would receive no votes, then a president could be elected with only 22% of the national popular vote. If there were three candidates, it would require only 15%. If a president received 49% of the vote in a state, he would walk away with nothing to show in electoral votes. And, noting that only 49% of Americans currently vote, the outcome of an election could theoretically represent only 12% of our nation.

As young Americans watch the candidates in the 2000 presidential primary elections, they see the flaws of the Electoral College system in action. Is it a coincidence that candidates spend an enormous amount of their wealth and time campaigning in certain states, such as New York, California, and Texas, which together constitute 44% of the Electoral College, and simply skip over others? Hardly -- and who can blame them, right? The candidates are simply doing what is necessary to become the next President of the United States. However young Americans such as myself do not see it that way; we see it as other's votes being valued more than our own. The politicians are not completely at fault, rather the system they operate in is. However, our elected officials must start the ball rolling in the way of reform. The time for change is now.

Too often in America, it is only the squeaky wheel that receives the oil. Frequently our nation is reactive instead of proactive, assessing predicaments after they occur. In dealing with something as serious as who will become the leader of the free world, we cannot wait to act after a problem has occurred. It is time -- rather it is past time -- to take a proactive stance in dealing with the Electoral College system. It is time to truly uphold the principle of "one man, one vote." The best way to reform the voting system is to reform the vote itself. Granted, such ideas as required debates between all candidates for office, election-day voter registration, and Internet voting are all excellent ideas. However, upholding the value of our vote must be given top priority. What does this tell America's young people: that all men are created equal except for their vote? The concept not only goes against the most basic ideals our country operates on, but is simply absurd in nature. Changing the elector system to a direct vote would fuel the enthusiasm of all Americans in the political process, knowing that the final decision came down to their votes. As citizens we must discontinue this "electocracy" -- rule by electors -- and see that it is our voice that determines who will lead our country.

Our forefathers had good intentions when choosing the Electoral College system, which, at the time, was the best option. They wrote Article II, Section one, and the rest of the Constitution to transcend time and changes in America, recognizing at the onset the possibility of future modifications. They knew these adjustments hinged on future generations of Americans fulfilling their obligation of taking an active role in their government. The Electoral College, having served its purpose, must be changed by us; America is ready. Let us, together, continue our government as our forefathers intended and oil the wheels that keep our democracy turning.