KEENE, NEW HAMPSHIRE
High school student
Essay themes: civic education, automatic voter registration, mandatory voting, fewer elections, free trips to polls
CHESTER G TSE
SHAUN M. FILIAULT
A System of Self Responsibility
It was an excellent lesson in American politics. Truly, I had never learned more in such a condensed period of time than I had during that brief, yet incredibly influential conference. And, as I participated in the events of the College Convention 2000, a conference that combined America's best and brightest high school students and college students with presidential candidates, I realized that this conference was what democracy is all about. Democracy is education about current issues and how to become involved with such issues. Democracy is registering to vote and urging other to do the same. Democracy is the glue that holds America together, and, if democracy is to die, the United States will die with it.
However, not all people have been fortunate enough to have
the political background and knowledge that I have, and allowed
me to to attend the Convention. Thus, many do not believe that
their vote truly matters in the electoral process. Many no do
not believe that the issues politicians decide upon effect them,
and therefore turn a blind eye to politics, possessing an attitude
that since politics does not affect them, they will not affect
A plan to avoid this growing trend of voter apathy would be
four-fold. The most important part of such a plan would be to
implement a mandatory civics class at all American high schools,
and make successful completion of this class a requirement for
graduation. While touching upon the themes present at the national
level politics, high school civics classes would focus upon
grassroots politics by looking at local elections and issues
of interest. In doing so, students would realize that the only
elected officials are not the senators or congressmen whom they
send to Washington, but also the mayor and city council they
send to city hall. In doing so, students would see that even
if the issues at a national level seem distant and abstract,
those at a local level are more concrete and close to home.
In learning about local politics, students will realize how
much local politics affect their lives, and, even more importantly,
that they can influence local politics by voting for city council
and mayoral candidates with whom they agree. This class would
also emphasize how to become involved in local politics by teaching
Now possessing a generation of informed voters, the second
step in increasing voter turnout would be an automatic registration
process. Rather than requiring the often complex and burdensome
task of personal registration, all persons aged eighteen years
or older would be automatically registered to vote upon their
eighteenth birthday, such as is
Since all US citizens over age eighteen would be registered to vote, all US citizens would be expected to vote. Thus, the United States should follow the model of Belgium and Australia which enact fines upon those who do not show up at the polls on election day. After an election is held, voter check lists would be monitored for no-show voters, and these persons would be sent a notice for a fine. Should this fine not be paid within a set time limit, these non-voters would face a court hearing for a more significant punishment. It is due to such an innovative system that Belgium can report ninety-two percent voter turnout while the US can claim only forty-nine percent.
In order to aid voters to follow through with their Constitutional
right, and avoid fines, employers, high schools, and universities
would be required to provide transportation to all eligible
students and employees to the polls at no expense. Thus, people
would not be able to use the current excuse many non-voters
claim, in that it is too burdensome to travel to the polls.
To further lessen this burden, fewer elections should be held
This nation faces so many important issues to young people that voting is vital. Issues such as school violence, the environment, educational funding, and the role of the United States are at the forefront. Each candidate has his or her own views on each of these issues, and intend on making their views policy upon election. Young voters can decide which of these views become policy by choosing a candidate.
It is unlikely that one vote will make a significant difference in an election. However, the youth of America can form a voting block if we desire to. This bloc is so large that any candidate would be a fool to ignore it. Youth can sway an election, but only if they so desire. If all these procedures, or even if one of these procedures would be followed, it would encourage more young people to vote and create this voting bloc. And, perhaps even more importantly, the American public would once again begin to feel the great pride toward their nation that I felt at the College Convention 2000. The future of our democracy depends on it.
Essay theme: Eliminate electoral college
Political participation of young people on almost all levels has plummeted in the past thirty years especially. Reforms have been made to the voting registration process many times with little to no progress being made in the actual number of voters that turn out to vote on Election Day. Many of the American people ignore the newspapers and news channels around Election Day. People go out of their way not to talk about politics in polite company. Couples avoid political discussions like a plague until just before the wedding day when they feel compelled to say something about the subject, even if it is a passing reference. Americans in general do not want to talk or even think about politics let alone take time and energy to go vote.
Although each person who does not vote has personal reasons for his or her choice, there seems to be a general trend of opinions in non-voters. The main argument of non-voters is that individual votes do not mean anything in the great scheme of politics. Students especially feel little to no connection with the government. In talking to great many college students, the general feeling is "Why vote when it is the Electoral Votes that matter in the long run?" Very few Americans truly understand the concept of the Electoral College. They don't believe that the vote that they cast at the polls will make a difference in the outcome of the election. They are not willing to trust their representative to the Electoral College to cast the vote that was made in the state.
A solution to this problem will not be found in any one answer. This problem requires that the people feel needed again in government. One way to make that happen is to get rid of the barrier directly between the votes and the candidate the people are casting votes for - the Electoral College. The Electoral College had a very important function in the eighteenth and even nineteenth century when transportation and communication were difficult. The citizens would elect a trusted representative from their state to take their decision for president to the capital. This is no longer is the case in the twenty-first century. It takes only hours to travel from coast to coast and minutes to talk to another person on the other side of the world. There is no longer a need for the Electoral College. On voting day, people vote at computers and the votes are counted automatically by the computer. The technology that we have available to us gives us the freedom to do away with the Electoral College and elect officials by individual votes only. If we have the technology to elect by individual votes, then the Electoral College stands like a wall between the people and the government. How can the government be by the people, for the people and of the people with that kind of a wall separating the two groups?
Reforms to the process of voting may increase numbers slightly, Internet voting may be a way to let lazy people vote at home. Half days of work and/or school would raise votes slightly giving everyone at least an opportunity to vote. Requiring candidate debates would help raise awareness but awareness won't bring people out to the polls. Conviction brings people out to vote each November. The faithful voters are the ones who love our country and our government and want to make a difference. Until the American people feel that their votes count in the great political sphere, political participation on all levels will stay where they are low.
CHESTER G TSE
Essay themes: Increased contact between politicians and young people, lowering the voting age, making sure the young voters are informed
Politicians have taken the incentives to go to schools and try to encourage young people to participate in our nation's politics, however, these visits seem to be geared towards parents and adult visitors who are present during the politician's speech. What needs to occur is more of an interaction between the politician and the young people. One possible solution is to make changes in the politicians' speeches. Have them clarify to the younger generation what changes there will be in the government in the near future, and how it will affect their future. The politicians need to show that the livelihood of the young is one of their major concerns. An additional solution is to allow the young people to ask more questions rather than listen to a speech given by the politician. In most occasions the politicians include in their speech: what they wish to accomplish during their elected years, what they will do for the people, and how they will improve our society. This will inform the young about the politician, but also may not be what the young people want to know about the campaigner. The youthful should be able to ask more questions and lead the discussion into directions that are more important to them and onto the topics that concern them.
Another aspect of our government that constricts our nation's young to be involved in politics is the voting age. Lowering the voting age would entice more adolescents to learn about politics and those who are running for governmental offices. A problem would arise if the young did not educate themselves about politics and the campaigners. They would have the privilege of voting without any knowledge about the government. Adolescents should be more informed of the politicians, possibly through school systems or media, such as television. Part of the political parties' funds should be set apart for advertisements and programs that encourage the young to take part in politics. These programs should have goals to educate adolescents in the different areas necessary to allow them to make wise choices in politics. Even if there are programs to help educate the young, the adolescents may not be willing to learn, and may make choices without any knowledge. An idea, even though it's almost inconceivable, is to still lower the age for voting, have programs to educate people on politics, but also have a test to make sure the people will be making intelligent decisions.
A final thought that would aid in gaining interests in politics is not just by getting politicians to change. Adults and parents should be urged to try to involve the youthful in political affairs. They could help influence the younger generation by having conversations with them that deal with politics. Performing tasks and accomplishing projects that deal with politics is even be practicable. There needs to be someone to at least start adolescents on the right track. Young people need to be shown that participation in politics is an important aspect to keep our government healthy. They need to know that voting is a privilege and right that should be taken seriously. If actions aren't taken now to change the declining statistics of the young involved in politics, it will just harm our nation's future.
Essay themes: Internet voting, inefficiency of current voting methods
I'm a politically active 20 year old college student, and I've never voted in an election, state, local or national. It seems strange now that I think about it. I've been interested in politics for as long as I can remember, trying to talk my parents into voting for Dukakis in 1988 and holding a sign for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. I eagerly looked forward to the time when I would be allowed to participate in the selection of my representatives in the government. Why have I never voted in an election? Because the voting system is so antiquated and inefficient, voting is for me, as it is for most young people, something between a hassle and an impossibility.
Right after my eighteenth birthday, I went down to the Town Hall (during the three hours a day it is open) and registered to vote. I filled out a tiny slip of paper that hadn't been updated since the late sixties, and suddenly I was a registered voter. As I would be going away to college, I asked how to get an absentee ballot for the local elections that November. They told me I had to write a note and hand it in, in person, at the Town Hall. I was a bit annoyed. One more thing to do before leaving for school. But I did it, still looking forward to voting. In November, I watched my mailbox, waiting for the ballot. It finally arrived-the day before the election. The return deadline was that day. I could have spent ten dollars to Fed-Ex my ballot back, but I didn't think I should have to do that. They had known months ahead of time that I would be away, and still hadn't managed to get the ballot to me on time. Many of my friends had similar experiences.
Frustrated, I sent in a note to get a ballot for the next election. It never came. When I called to inquire, they told me it must have gotten lost in the mail. And so, here I am, an annoyed young voter starting to think about conspiracy theories. A few changes in the voting procedure could make voting painless and dramatically raise the numbers of voters. One step that must be taken is allowing people to vote on-line. We now have the technology to ensure security and fairness of Internet voting. While this may be initially expensive to implement, it is worth it to give people the ability to vote. Many, if not most, young people are comfortable with the Internet, and would welcome this option. In addition to the many young people who are away from home, many people are busy and would not vote if it meant taking time off from work. These people would likely vote if it meant just taking a few seconds to visit a web site.
Advance sign-up is another difficulty for many people. Those who show up to the voting venue with proper identification should be allowed to vote, without preregistering. We need to remove barriers to voting. People just do not have the time to waste jumping municipal hurdles to prove they are fit for voting. Overall improvements in efficiency are also necessary. My town still keeps voters' names on little cards, and uses paper ballots. The Supervisor of the Checklist is an elderly lady who jumped in shock when I suggested starting a computer database. I feel very disconnected from the people who govern the voting process, who are trying to keep the voting procedures in the 18th century, even as we are entering the 21st.
It may be sad to some people that young people do not think
voting is important enough to spend a Saturday morning at the
Town Hall, registering to vote, or spend ten dollars Fed-Exing
in a ballot that was sent out to late by a careless error. Speaking
for myself, as well as many others who feel the same as I do,
it is not that we are apathetic, or stupid, or hate politics.
I feel very strongly that voting is absolutely necessary for
the continued success of democracy. However, voting is just
not as accessible to us as it is for the retired people of my
town, who can devote themselves to playing games with the government
in order to get that little scrap of paper. I just want to walk
up to the table, get my ballot, and vote. Or, better yet, take
a few minutes out from writing a paper to vote online. If you
clear the barriers, more people, and especially young people,