Essay themes: Voting as a learned behavior, registration problems, instant run-off voting
HELEN F BURNS
Every year the United States government spends billions of
dollars to spread democratic ideals around the globe. At the
same time, the citizens of this great country seem reluctant
to share in their love of democracy, causing voter turnout levels
to continue to decline. Like many actions of Americans, the
desire to vote is one that needs to be taught at a young age.
If potential voters start as soon as they are eligible, they
are more likely to continue voting, as they grow older. Thus,
the key is to target young voters. It needs to be easier to
vote for the first time, and the government also needs to send
the message to young people that their vote matters. Both goals
can be accomplished with a rather simple adjustment of the electoral
system. With the implementation of election-day voter registration
and a single transferable vote system, the United States of
America can show its young citizens that it is not only easy
to vote, but that their vote is actually worth something.
Each of these proposals is an attempt to solve a problem that is in desperate need of repair. The United States currently trails only Switzerland for the lowest voter turnout in the democratic world. Decreasing the restrictions on registering is one way to attack this problem. Election-day registration enables the youth of America to vote without the struggles of pre-registering months in advance. Implementing instant runoff voting is also a necessary change that would instill confidence in the process of voting for public office. Each of these methods would increase turnout slightly, but in concurrence, these proposals could combine to the be the kind of dynamic electoral policy that would mobilize young voters and force the leaders of this country to listen to what they have to say.
HELEN F BURNS
The meaning of the word democracy is rule by the people. Today, we live in a society where the majority is not educated and therefore, when majority rules, it is more and more likely that the majority is not right the majority of the time. Half the population is registered to vote, of that half, forty percent vote regularly, and the majority of those forty percent go down the ballot and mark the first of their party that they see because their family has been "Democrat" or "Republican" for years and they aren't about to change the tradition. A great many others vote only for those who are most popular, whose names the media has been spreading about in every political column. This leaves only a very small percentage of the nation who really cares and learns about the "State of the Union" and whose is in charge of making decisions about it and all of us. As of now, I am not yet able to vote, so I am in the hands of the majority. This frightens me very much indeed, because the majority doesn't care. As long as they are earning money, they do not care what is happening. I might lose all the freedoms my forefathers worked long and hard to gain because the majority does not care to protest.
The lack of participation in the democratic process of the youth today is not as complicated as it might seem at first. Most high school students do not stay informed because they, like their parents do not care about much besides money and possessions and how to get more of both. They see their high school and college education as a key to more money and possessions. Most do not learn for the sake of knowledge itself, and therefore learn no more than they have to. My solution to this problem would involve several easy steps and promises to increase the voting participation. I propose that everyone who votes will be given an income tax deduction. Because everyone is focused on money and everyone has to pay an income tax, this would include everyone. To avoid losing federal revenue, raise taxes the amount of the deduction. This should satisfy both the Democrats and Republicans because we are raising the taxes, but we do not have to pay them if we dutifully vote.
Now you are wondering how we are going to make this stick. This is not interfering with anyone's rights. The Constitution specifically says that the federal government must ensure that each of the local state governments have a republican form of government. If almost everyone quits voting, we are left with a government in which only a few make the decisions, it would not be a republican form of government; it would be an oligarchy. If someone cannot make it to the voting booths that day for some legitimate reason, which I will leave up to the states' legislatures to define, they may be given a slip of paper to give to their superior excusing them. Those who do vote will also be given a slip of paper saying that they have voted. I will once again leave the form of this paper to the states' legislatures to define.
I think that this last part of my plan is the most important. I mentioned earlier that many students learn no more than they think is necessary to get through school. This does not usually encompass politics and the movements and beliefs of politicians. The average high school student might know the top politicians running for president from each party, but many have no idea who is second in line. I propose that everyone who is going to vote must take a test. It will be very simple; multiple-choice and perhaps twenty questions. Its subject would be the current politicians and their beliefs, perhaps including a few questions about their vice-presidents. If you would like to vote and get the slip of paper, you must pass this test with at least a seventy-five percent--which means on my test you would have to get fifteen right to be able to vote. This would require that the prospective voter would have to know what the candidates believed.
To ensure that no one protests because they "have not had the opportunity to learn" about these politicians, I recommend that political debates be staged between all of the candidates, increasing in number and frequency as election day approaches. These should include question and answer sessions with the media and the public. This would make it easier for newspapers, radio stations, and television programs to report to the general public about the content of such meetings. These conferences would be open to the public of course, and at least one should take place in every state, if it is national, and in most of the largest towns if it is local.
When you come right down to it, it almost impossible to make anyone do what he or she has their mind set against, and this includes being a responsible adult. My solution will not cure our problem, but I think that it will make it just a little harder for people to avoid being responsible.
Essay themes: Generation values, website based educational programs, lack of youth related issues
Why does America's youth ignore politics?
In the days of old, respect and national pride were enough to fuel the desire to get involved in the formation of our nation. Key issues were raised that affected the young Americans, directly, forcing votes out of them. However, today, America's youth has gotten lazy and content with the nation as it stands. Fairy dust and cyberspace are viable excuses to the question of "what make our country run?" To put it painfully blunt, ladies and gentlemen: we don't care.
That sounds so perfectly pessimistic, yet the truest truth always sounds the worst. The backbone to juvenile disinterest lies in the nation's moral ignorance. Why should sixteen year old Susie worry about a law that effects all five year olds, when there is debate upon an issue of lowering the taxes on all teenage workers? Why should sixty year old Claris vote in favor of improving school conditions, when she can vote on issues of life insurance? They could do it out of compassion for their fellow man. But, I fear, compassion for strangers is hard to give, when we cannot even accept candy from them. In the modern, "every man for himself" society, that sort of philanthropic honor system simply cannot be expected to work anymore. In the times when politics were first formed it was not only expected, it existed. But today, a thousand environmental sources create and enforce protective paranoia that serves to save us from society's outcasts and inadvertently creates beings of eternal suspicion. Alas, society is the wind, no human can hope to define or control this amorphous being, much less put it's demon ways under control.
Little can be done to involve the young in politics today, because the politics today don't involve the young. In retrospect, how many issues arisen the past few years have been focused on young Americans? Less than twelve percent at the very best. Which is very low, much like the percent of young Americans voting. How many issues, that have arisen over the past few years, affect the old and elderly? Much more than half, which reflects the percent of old and elderly voting. There is no miracle cure for this segment of the listlessness disease. The affairs of this country have yet to focus on the young, therefore, no issues have presented themselves. It's merely the hand of fate which guides true issues, but fate is a fickle mistress.
The most prominent reason for the lack of attention politics receives, stems from the laziness of America's youth. Unlike the two ideas mentioned above, this is very easily remedied. Media is doing it's part to reverse this, with public service messages from celebrities, news reports on health, and the beautification of the healthy, active and possessors of leadership qualities. But specifically in the area of politics, Internet voting can vastly improve this area, by cooperating with the public's lethargy. Since this medium is vastly growing in popularity, especially with the young Americans. Television can aid as well, with reminders of local as well as national issues, providing information in a commercial framework. Newspapers could be used, but emphasis on the modern television and Internet will guarantee a larger impact than any of the older methods used. A straight-laced, no propaganda Webster professionally created and brilliantly advertised could revolutionize the voter turn out in this new millennium.
Political disinterest in America's youth is mostly caused by factors beyond our control. Society's lack of moral awareness, scarcity of youth related issues, and America's growing inactivity are all causes for this indifferent attitude plaguing the juvenile world. The road to change is not easy, and it is not a trip any single man woman or child can make. We, as a nation, must move together to arouse the fire of political passion in the hearts of the future leaders of the world.
Essay themes: Need for candidates that young people can relate to, lack of faith in candidates
The United States government should take more notice to the younger population, for as we all know "We are our future". The youth of America doesn't see the importance of the political ring because approximately 90% of the topics of argument are over the state of Medicare, which is vitally important to our older population, aid to foreign countries, and who is fornicating with the intern. Democracy was not thought to be about the private lives of the candidate who will represent the American public. Now, gentlemen, do you think the under 25 population cares for these political platforms? We are more interested figuring out how to make a fast buck ("Generation X"), and how to have Cybersex. The important issues of the politically inclined are more involved in corporate America and that is all. If you feel that our system is working, and we of the younger generation are not listening, then how is it possible for a Baseball Hall-of-Famer to commit tax fraud, Football stars to use illegal substances and Professional Wrestlers to use anabolic steroids, and do nothing about it? When a small paper such as the Wichita Eagle can publish an article on a Dallas Cowboy's player failing his last 3 drug tests and not being prosecuted, does this sound like the "system" works? What about the inmates in maximum security penitentiaries earning doctorates? I can barely afford to go to college and these mass murderers and rapists are getting the education that I am working hard for. I finished high school 6 months ahead of my class. Use your heads, people of the government, not you posterior.
The younger Americans want someone in office that can relate to them. They don't want a male in office, who is over 65 years of age, trying to tell us that he knows where the younger generation is coming from. In my experience in the medical profession, you begin losing memory around the age 45, give or take. Approximately 80% of all people over the age of 75 have some form of Dementia/Alzheimer's. The younger Americans want to know more about what we are doing for the homeless, people who are committing Medicaid fraud, and those that are committing disability fraud? I can't afford good health insurance for myself because I am currently going to school full time, have a child and a husband. We are very fortunate that my son has decent health insurance because he has asthma and has been diagnosed with it since he was 3. The people of my age group want health insurance for their children because the underprivileged get ill more than often because of circumstances. Corporate America and the political hypocracies of this once great nation have been blown completely out of proportion by the Senators and House of Representatives voting themselves more and more pay raises, the $400 toilet seats in the White House and the money wasted on trying to prove that people are unfaithful and want money. I salute Bill Clinton (and I'm a Republican by nature) for his determination for improving schools for our children and beginning training programs for those people who want to help themselves and not allowing the two other branches of government run him down. I also salute any person that didn't vote against cutting Medicare, for that is the way I make it through school. My husband works in a small town nursing facility. If Medicare would have been cut, I wouldn't be writing this to you today.
Now is the time for the American public to stand up and take control of ourselves. Yes, God said, "Love thy neighbor". Do we have to love our neighbors so much and not our own families? Yes, third world countries need aid. Yes, they don't have enough money. No, we should not help them. They have the richest land in the world with the diamonds in Africa and oil in Kuwait. India has gold and oil themselves. China has Japan. Why doesn't the Japanese assist these countries like we do? Japan is the richest country in the world and getting richer by the day, minute, second. Did they become this way by giving away their extra dinero to a "poor" country and refuse to help their own? No. They take care of themselves and then take care of others.
I went to a seminar once that talked about drug abuse. What do you think happened when the speaker said that 72% of all drug abusers are in the working class and over half of them are parents with middle class salaries?...One big intake of air. Collaborative. Unison. Continue telling kids to just say no. Start telling the PARENTS to just say no. How many of the people in the House could pass a breathalyzer test after lunch, while driving to the office?
The younger population wants a choice. We want all of the options that were given to everyone in the past with one exception. Faith that we WILL make the right choices. In the future, we will teach our children that it is imperative that they believe in themselves and we need to believe that when they say it. We need to believe the government. We need to know that the government is working for us, not working for themselves. You accomplish that and you WILL have the younger generation.
Essay themes: Efforts on behalf of candidates to increase
youth voting, technology and the media
There is always room for change in anything we do and in politics there is always room for a lot! Although kids 16-25 have low voter turnout there is a flip side as well...how many constituents actually go out there and talk to them and tries to learn what they want? I live in a very small town where the University plays a large role in the community and with the exception of a few men and women we never see any of the candidates or the incumbents, and this is free reign for them to get their name out and help in neighboring communities.
We as a county are trying to win the fight on drugs and teenage drug use, so what do we do? We flood the television, the computer, the candy boxes, the schools, everything the media can get their hands on and say why not to do drugs. It is not a sure thing, and how many people can repeat off memory the commercial, "This is your brain, this is your brain on drugs..." That is what we need to do! It is a slow process but ten years down the line I bet the polls would show a difference. As we embrace the 21st century we have and will continue to make technological advances way beyond our means, and this I tell you is where the difference will be made!
There needs to be online chatting with candidates, online voting, home pages and links to other topics. When the television is turned on for those peak times between 7pm and 9pm there needs to be commercial after commercial-getting names out there, places to vote, voting dates, phone numbers, and so forth. But what we do not need is mud sling and filth. People do not vote anymore and people do not care anymore because they are sick of hearing disgusting stories and immoral and unethical acts that politicians are partaking in. Men and women that run for city, county, state, or federal offices are adults who are very successful people and they need to act that way. If you act any different your credibility is lost very quickly and people stop caring.
Who knows where the original breakdown occurred and who cares! We need to pick up the pieces and start fresh again. People in politics make choices that affect everyone and the best way for them to make choices to benefit everyone is by flooding the media with positive news and trying to reach the children of the future. I believe without a doubt in my mind that if every time I read the newspaper, turned on the television, signed on to my email I heard something about an election or a candidate or anything it would eventually sink in and I along with everyone else would start to get the message and the process of bringing up voter turnout and registration just turned around in our favor! And that is how your kill voter apathy...you never let it set in, you flood the market consistently and continuously!
Politics has begun to fall upon deaf ears in many public institutions across America. The basic fundamentals that should be taught in the required Government courses, are now being shrouded with partisan ideals and values. Your organization has put out the question to the youths of America. They ask how they can reverse the current situation with low numbers at the polls in the young voting generation. Many solutions will solve laziness but my solution is meant to solve incompetence.
The solution that I feel would do the public the most good is to educate the future voters while they have to learn it. Students sit in government classes and feel that they don't have the choice. They don't understand that each American has a voice and means to use it. I feel that we should teach students about choice, and not ideas. How can a teacher who conveys party values and stances to students in his normal lesson plans not be biased to his own party? Politics and party affiliation have always been hot topics, and everyone has their own opinions. The answer to the problem is to cut out misunderstanding, thus reducing apathy among young voters. Students are so confused by teachers, parents, etc. who have conflicting views in politics, that they don't know what to believe. In order not to go against the grain in any way, they just don't vote when the time comes. By teaching the students with a complete and total non-partisan attitude, then they will begin to understand that politics means the freedom to make your own choice. Young people like the idea of that.
I'm currently a senior at Osage City High School in Osage City, Kansas. It was painfully obvious to me that my government teacher was a Republican. Fortunately, although he taught in a partisan manner, he still conveyed the beliefs and views of each party in a non-partisan way. That is when, despite the views of my teacher and my parent's, I decided that I was a democrat. Giving kids the opportunity to hear both sides of the story and form their own opinion, will give them the desire to exercise that view. Instead of making them idle mouthpieces for parents or teachers, the decision is in their hands.
My proposition is to create a lesson plan on teaching politics for government teachers. It doesn't have to be a strict regiment, but just suggested lesson plans for the teachers. In this way they are obligated to teach from a non-partisan standpoint, and thus have to give the students the opportunity to form their own political ideals. In doing this the students will be more involved because it is them making a conscious choice, and exercising their opinion through the practice that makes our country the greatest in the land: voting. A curriculum that would enhance the plight of the American voting system as well as give young people the opportunity to form their own political ideals, is one that would reap great benefits. The students would spark more of an interest in government, and be more involved as adults. Most kids are weary of English and math, but that is because it is right or wrong. In politics, half of the time wrong is right or vice versa. There is no definite, except in procedure, and that (as recently proven) isn't a definite in itself. Of course, there will be some setbacks to the program. Teachers will complain that where they were being completely competent in the subject, they will now have to be replaced with a required reform. But sometimes if there is one bad apple, you have to throw the whole barrel out and start fresh. Obviously, our education system has more than one bad apple because of the recent increase of apathy among young voters.
The only alternative I can see is to start fresh with the way American Government is being taught. When something is infiltrated into minds at a young age such as sex education, drug use classes, and common ideals and morals, the greater part of the whole will grasp and utilize the message that is being put out. We always hear statistics of drug use or sexual activity among teenagers, but the percentages are always a minority. The answer to the question or to any question is to start early, and finish with a more educated and wise public. Implementing a program targeting people in the 18-24 year old range would be a wasted effort. In doing that, you would be putting the cart before the horse. Opinions, although are ever-changing, form early on. We have to start integrating students into politics while they are still young, so that they understand and can competently carry out the duties that they are obligated to as American citizens. In my opinion if there is ever a question of how to solve a problem dealing with the competency of the American people, look to the children. The present is often hard change, but the future always has the capacity to reverse effects of previous generations.
Essay themes: Government distrust, Internet voting
The Internet can reform democracy and reactivate young voters by making voting easier, supplying unbiased and thorough information on all candidates and bills, minimizing the money-centered campaigning that undermines American democracy, and reconnecting the people with their representatives. What's the first excuse the young voter uses to explain why he didn't vote? Well, he just simply didn't have time to go down to the voting booths. The Internet can solve that problem by bringing voters within a point and a click of exercising their political powers. Here's the scenario. Voters register on-line at a voting web-site in which they supply an e-mail address and receive an individual secret code. When an election arises, the election officials send messages with a link to the registered electorate. On Election Day, the voter checks his e-mail, opens the message, clicks on the link, and lands in the voting web-site. There, he logs on by entering his e-mail address and the secret code and transfers to a secure voting "booth". Then, he clicks on the box by the candidate for whom he wishes to vote and logs out. In a matter of seconds, the voter has spoken his peace, and he didn't even have to drive to the library. The ease of that process could activate all but the most apathetic voters. That is, until the next excuse comes up. The second excuse is that the young voter just doesn't know for whom he should vote. The Internet solves this problem by making information readily accessible to all voters, not just the ones that live in that certain crucial demographic. The candidates themselves can set up web-sites to publicize their platforms and records, and concerned public groups can set up web-sites that filter through the card-stacking to give equalized comparative statistics on all the candidates. Things such as voting records, personal history, and a percentage of promises kept could all be put within the reach of the voter's mouse. For the voter that didn't have time to do his homework before Election Day, links to all of these sites could be set up at the voting booth log-on page.
Obviously, the Internet could be a powerful medium of informing voters; regardless of what method they use to vote on Election Day. Speaking of the Media, the Internet solves one of problems of democracy that concerned Jefferson himself. Namely, it informs the people. Television, probably the primary source of political information these days, has a few major flaws when it comes to the democratic process. First, television has a limited number of channels on which information can be aired. Anything in limited quantity can be controlled and sold. Secondly, the people controlling this airtime sell it to the highest bidder. How many candidates, good or bad, have dropped out of a race due to the lack of essential million dollar funding? How many politicians have compromised their moral integrity and federal law to acquire those precious funds? The Internet's power comes from the fact that there is no limit to the number of web-sites that can be created therefore no monopoly on the control of its space. Anybody can have a web-site, and they can run it at a comparatively low cost. Granted, an exclusively Internet campaign might not be effective at present, but someday it might be so. The point is that the Internet provides a medium of political exchange that removes the need for finance and fund-raising abilities, abilities that ultimately do not pertain to a person's leadership skills. Lastly, the Internet creates an interactive medium of exchange that could revamp American democracy. Using chat room capabilities, candidates can field questions from the voters themselves, while the neighbors listen in and add their own comments, all from home or the local library. That kind of personalized attention could be a strong tool for returning democracy to health. For government-leery youth, Internet chatting could bolster their trust in elected officials, eliminating yet another excuse for voting apathy, and promoting communication that is essential to a healthy democracy.
Clearly, the Internet could be a powerful tool to make voting easier, to make vital information on candidates readily accessible, to reform money-centered campaigning, and increase communication between the people and their representatives. While Internet democracy has its critics, there can be no denying the necessity for change in our democratic system. If the Internet could affect this change and reactivate the youth, the difference would be well worth the effort. With the right motivation and opportunity, America's youth could gain power as an election-influencing group. Then, candidates might give them more attention, and this country might see more law making that benefits the young. On a final note, perhaps the rift between America's youth and its government springs from a sense of apathy fostered by both parties on each other. If so, the Internet could very well be the tool to reunite America's future with its leaders on the road to tomorrow.