Essay themes: Mailing out voter registration applications, Internet voting, mailing out election information
RAYMOND J CAMPBELL
In order to increase the already plummeting voter participation
among young adults in the United States, three problems need
addressing, not knowing how to vote, not knowing about what
one is voting for, and feeling that one's vote doesn't count.
Simply increasing the accessibility to voting, however, is not the only solution to increasing actual voter turnout; another problem exists. When people have registered to vote and have understood the whole process of how to vote, the next obstacle that stops many people is what or who to vote for. Unfortunately the details of many issues, bills, or candidates are unknown to the voters. Many voters simply cannot find the time to find out such details and therefore do not vote. Does this phenomenon actually lower voter turnout though? This is shown true by the fact that approximately fifteen percent more voters turn out to vote during presidential election years when they are more likely to not be ignorant of the candidates, the presidential ones especially.
What can the solution for this problem be then? Simple explanations of the candidates, the bills, and the issues can be sent by mail. While not everyone has e-mail yet (electronic voting would not require an e-mail address) and not everyone has an answering machine, almost everyone has an address where conventional mail can be received. In addition, while many newspapers do significant coverage of the issues, the bills, and the candidates, not everyone gets such papers. Sending out informational packets seems to be the most practical solution. Through this simple system the problems of people not knowing who or what to vote for can be avoided and voter turnout, especially among young adults who have yet to discover much of the world's issues, bills and candidates, can be increased.
The last and final problem, however, is the problem of many people not voting because they don't think their vote will count. Because of single-candidate races and landslide victories, often their votes do not count. In order to make votes count, one must look to the possibilities of inclusive voting systems. Two helpful reforms to aid making votes count are cumulative voting and an open party list system. Whereas other reforms only seem to complicate the voting process and make the voter feel more lost than found, cumulative voting and multi-member districts greatly add to a voter's feeling of confidence that his or her vote counted.
With the open party-list system, multi-member districts are set apart where voters vote for more than one candidate. The total party votes are added up and percentages of votes for each party are calculated from these tallies. From these percentages parties (from democrats to independents) receive seats. The people are truly represented here because the losers as well as the winners both get seats. This is called an open party-list system and is only possible within a multi-member district. Cumulative voting gives a set amount of election votes to each voter (the number of races) and allows the voters to place their votes anywhere being able to place more than one vote on each candidate. With this system voters can place their votes on the candidates they actually know something about. Both of these reforms greatly add to the confidence of the young adult young voter that his votes actually counted. Only by increasing young adults' accessibility to voting, knowledge of who and what to vote for, and their overall confidence that their vote counted can young Americans be convinced that they are indeed doing their duty for their country.
Essay themes: Political correctness in education, civics education and application
When presented with this query, the first question that I feel must be answered is, "What, exactly, is the reason students in my age group no longer get involved in the political process?" By answering this question we will be better equipped to attack the root of the problem of waning political interest by young people in America today. To come to the best solution, I am going to approach this problem in three steps. First, we'll analyze what the current problem is, followed by what should be done to solve it. We will then conclude with what effects this solution will have on the problem and those affected.
After thorough analysis I have come to the personal conclusion that the reason for our lack of involvement is due to a complete disinterest in politics all-together. Almost from birth we are continually presented with the actions of Washington as a topic of criticism. Even in a joking manner, we have nothing good to say about politicians. Joining the ranks of lawyers and snake-oil salesmen, 1,000 politicians at the bottom of the sea is still a "good start". The root of this problem is schools where we are continually confronted with negative opinions on the issue of politics. This, unfortunately, is on a good day, and on any normal day we are met with complete silence. Politics, like God and sexuality, have become taboo issues in public schools. Our society has gained the unfounded perception that children are born with natural instincts and that one of those is how to vote. I am told that this has not always been the case. Back in the day, students were engaging in political discussions, were required to watch debates between candidates, and even ran their own straw polls during campaign years. Tragically, times have changed and now, though we are embroiled in the middle of a hot election, the current topic in my A.P. Democracy class is Post-Civil War Reconstruction. No effort has been made whatsoever to explain to the student population what is currently going down on Capitol Hill. So how do we make sure our children know how to vote before sending them off into the world with a pen and a ballot? How do our school systems best present a firm grounding in the political process without creating a brainwashing environment? Here we must be careful since there is a strong possibility that too much biased influence will once again turn the masses away from politics all together. It is a tightrope that even the best compromiser ought to consider carefully before taking any position.
A solid education in the available forms of government, comparing Democracy with Communism, Socialism, Republic, Parliamentary and Monarchical Systems, is the first prerequisite. In this way, we establish a sense of pride in our democratic system and its high ideals and values. Also, updates of current political movements and activities on the part of Democrat, Republican, Reform, and Third-Party political machines is a necessity to ensure that pride is carried into the present institution. There should also be an inclusive, if limited, engagement in political activities within the school and community. These studies need to be a required class, taken in either the junior or senior year of high school.
With these classes, there ought to be an accompanying extracurricular program focusing on practical application. The program needs to work closely with local politicians, special interest groups, student government, and school administration. The groups would function much like Young Republicans and Young Democrats groups in college. But how, we are forced to ask, do we facilitate this type of fundamental change in a bipartisan world without developing into a program that can be swayed by whichever party controls a majority in Congress? This program must be based on equal access for all parties and positions.
With the "what and how" answered, we now move to the final point of this proposal: the impacts of its implementation. In asking how this program could affect myself and young people like me, I only need to look to all the benefits of increased understanding amongst the upcoming voting population. We are the future of political action in this country, either through our participation or lack thereof. If the young people could be empowered with the necessary knowledge to make an educated decision while at the same time having a driving desire to do so, we could see the beginnings of a social revolution in this country. I must say that I am not the norm in my desire to understand the political process. I personally look forward to voting, simply because I have been made aware of current political issues through my speech and debate experience. Unfortunately, I am not sufficiently equipped to make a decision on one candidate over another because I have not had the necessary exposure to the issues that could affect me. This is where the public schools can play the greatest role in preparing me and people like me for our first step in living democracy. It is for this reason that I must propose and defend this program as the only way to get our youth to return to the ballot box.
RAYMOND J CAMPBELL
Essay themes: Proportional representation, the development of a multi-party system
When I turned eighteen years old, I had no idea about the centrality of active political participation to American life. To be honest, my concerns revolved around being a high school student. Athletics, dating, getting excellent grades for college, and having fun consumed my time. It is only after my first year of college that I began to think seriously about political participation. In doing so, I rooted my political inactivity to that point to a growing concern that I have as an enrolled Native American. Native Americans, historically until today, have never really enjoyed the same Constitutional rights as other Americans. We were not given citizenship until 1924. In Arizona, where my reservation is located, my grandparents and parents were denied the right to vote until the 1950s. In short, I was never taught to participate because I have no history of political participation. Since then I have raised my political consciousness.
From the perspective of the smallest demographic minority, with the least amount of political clout, I find two solutions. First is proportional representation, either determined by geography or racial categories. American is a multi-ethnic society that screams equal representation. The final solution, I believe, is allowing for the development of multiple parties with distinct political agendas. The Republican and Democratic parties are in reality a single party with parallel agendas. Their stranglehold leaves little room for true democratic debate from a variety of political perspectives. I find these solutions to be simple, but eloquent, but realize that the prevailing political power structures would perceive these changes as potentially threatening to their well-being.
Essay themes: Education, election day holiday
In today's society, voting is an important and valuable tool that keeps the general public incorporated in the legislative process. This excludes, however, those who are my peers, including myself and those who are still struggling with being teens and in school. We all realize that this is the key to being heard; yet voting is not a hot issue in the gossip circle. Yes, I think there are many reforms that could be used to draw the votes from a major portion of the U.S. population, yet where we need to start is back in the schools. What we know is what has been told to us and that means our education. If the emphasis is put on voting while we're young and it becomes a part of our lives, from our parents to teachers to older siblings, we will know just how imperative our votes really are.
It is the responsibility of the older generation to show us the importance of voting. One reform that may help solve the problem would be to set up a ballot in the school open to seniors and juniors of legal age. I strongly believe that if access to voting would be more available to teens, they would be willing to do it. Why make it a struggle for people to do something that they're not even sure if they're interested in? I don't believe that lowering the legal voting age would be a positive change just because if the age is any lower, you tend to run into ignorance and kids voting just to get a sticker. I don't think publicized debates between candidates would hinder anything either because it's under pressure that you get to see the other side of people. Making election day a holiday might draw a few more people that are caught up in school and aren't able to get away for the day to vote, although, it might just give those legal adults an excuse to go skiing or whatever. They might not use the day for what it was intended for. I realize that's a somewhat cynical approach, but I am a teenager, and I know what tangled webs reside in our brains.
As far as a unicameral and a parliamentary system are concerned, I can hardly believe that those in charge would be willing to change the very way our government functions and has functioned for more than 200 years just to raise a few votes, and I agree that it's hardly worth it. To conclude reforms, the one single way we can involve the young people in the election and legislative process is to make it a part of their life in school and at home. The key is with our mentors- family and teachers. I realize the votes by the youth would be, if anything, fragile because if the proper details were not taken into consideration and without due seriousness, there could be a great many wrong decisions made, but the power to vote is clearly underestimated and unappreciated among my generation. We have yet to understand the sheer volume of our numbers and the incredible changes that could be brought about if we would just sit down to watch the news and find out what our country is doing to and for us and unite our voices. While we create protest groups and organizations to scream out against the ones that are making our decisions for us, our answer lies simple and plain, just trying to reach out and slap us, hollering, Vote, stupid! I know there's a lot more to voting than I've seen so far as I have yet to reach my first election day, my 18th birthday being just 3 months ago, yet I plan to make it my personal responsibility to do what I can do for myself and my country by voting.
Essay themes: Registration reforms; mandatory voting, third party access
Being of a young age and a political science major I have observed many problems with younger people not voting. I have noticed some efforts by MTV's "Rock the Vote", for example, that have helped stimulate voter participation by the younger generation. Certain reforms will help increase voter turnout by the younger generation.
Registration reforms will help increase the number of younger voters. A specific example that illustrates this is the gubernatorial race in Minnesota in 1998. Minnesota has an election-day registration law in the books, and they had the greatest voter turnout of all fifty states. Countries like Australia have a law that requires people to register to vote and they have the greatest voter turnout in the world. I believe in a free democracy in which people should choose the right to vote, but I do believe that people that register to vote should be required to vote or they lose the right to vote in the next election. Also, I do believe that the law that allows people to register at the DMV should be revoked, for it does not increase the number of people that vote, just the number of people that register to vote. Making election day a holiday and expanding voting hours will also increase younger people's voter participation because many people in college tend to have a job also, so they cannot find the time to go to the designated voting place.
An increase in third party candidates will also raise the voter participation of a younger generation. Using the example of the Minnesota gubernatorial race again the voter participation was large, because the younger generation was excited about the new candidate. Ventura appealed to the younger generation and gave them something to be excited about. Many people today feel their vote "won't make a difference", but if they have something to get excited about they want that, so they fight for whatever they want. With it being easier for a third party candidate to get on the ballot and take a stand on certain issues, it will be more interesting and exciting for the younger generation to vote. An example of this is the fact that certain interest groups such as the American Association of Retired People have such large voter turnout is because many issues that are being decided appeal to the older generation. These issues range from social security to Medicare. Young people have to get motivated into voting for people that believe in their issues, such as the Green Party appeals to environmentalists.
Young people have to start getting interested in politics and certain issues. They have to begin to understand the candidates and learn about the issues. These reforms will only be the first step. Young people can not be forced into voting, but they must be stimulated in the issues and believe in America's democracy.
Essay themes: Laziness of today's youth, corruption of the government, the decay of values
Responsible citizenship is at the core of political participation by individual citizens. Part of being a responsible citizen in a free democratic country is a duty to elect those most fit to be leaders of a free people. The time and energy it takes to make an educated vote is the price, small though it may be, that we must pay for liberty. In order to be eager to maintain our liberty, we must first understand the price that was paid and how precious it was to those who fought and died for it. My generation has lived in a free country, brought up in luxury and comparatively free from worries and responsibilities. We have little or no concept of the sweat and blood that fertilized the soil of our country; we are only reaping the harvest of freedom and becoming lethargic in our surfeit of material goods. At the turn of the 20th century, with America looking forward to a bright future, President Teddy Roosevelt issued a stern warning. He said, "I do not undervalue for a moment our material prosperity...But we must keep steadily in mind that no people were ever benefited by riches if their prosperity corrupted their virtue." Had we heeded this stern warning there would be little or no need for voting reform.
The decline in voter participation is only a symptom of a much greater problem. Because we have forgotten the principles of responsibility and hard work which made our country great, we are now faced with a great dilemma. If children are not taught from infancy, or at least youth, to be responsible and to work hard, there are few who will recognize as adults that they need to do so. In order to have more responsible voters, this country's families must raise more responsible children. The parents themselves must be make a point of being involved in voting and the public spectrum and teach their children to do the same. Children learn from example, and if politics is made an object of scorn and disinterest in the home, most people will grow up with the same attitude.
However, much that has been done lately in the political arena is deserving of censure. In order to change citizens' fairly correct view of politics, politics and politicians themselves must change. It is the responsibility of a nation's leaders to work for the good of the country, and if a person is not willing to look to the best interest of the whole rather than his or her own agenda, that person has no business in the political arena. Those elected by the people are entrusted with the guardianship of that people. This is a sacred trust that has been violated many times over in the past century. Because of these violations, the sheep now feel like their shepherd has become a wolf, and the one who is supposed to be protecting them has turned on them instead. It is this attitude, and also one of a helpless incapacity to change anything, that has chased the voters away from the polls. There seems to be an attitude of, "There is not much we can do anyway, so why should we try?" The amount of bureaucratic red tape and hidden government secrets is appalling. With all of this, how can the public be educated? We remain in ignorance, and a few people have control of the policies of an entire country. The courts and the justice system cater to the minority, wreaking havoc on the rights of the majority. Right and wrong have become relative, and the Constitution is a dead document, or at least taken so out of context as to be unrecognizable. Government policies prey on the voters, and we stay away from the fire because we are tired of getting burned. Is it any wonder we don't vote when my generation has been raised in ignorant wealth, fed tolerance and relativism by the education system and lulled into a false sense of security by politicians preaching that economy is everything? We have not been taught how to think for ourselves, and in fact are looked at as practically incapable of thinking. We are spoon fed during our entire existence, so once we are old enough to vote, we either believe that no one values our opinion, are too lazy to think for ourselves, or else feel that since the economy is doing fine, we can leave it up to those who are more knowledgeable and have been taking care of us our entire lives. I say change politics, restore our foundations, and voter participation will take care of itself. Cure the disease, and the symptoms will disappear. Force people to take the initiative to think and act for themselves instead of living in a perpetual welfare state and depending on the government for every little thing. If you say this is impossible, than be surprised at nothing that people will do or imagine in the next century.
We have seen a radical departure from those ideals on which
our country was based, and only a radical turnaround will solve
many of the problems we now face. Only when we pull ourselves
out of our lethargy and look further than the state of the economy
will reform occur.