Essay themes: The Internet, Election Day as a holiday, proportional representation, run-off voting
JESSICA L VIRDEN
Essay themes: The Internet, Election Day as a holiday, proportional representation, run-off voting
Reforming a Political Generation Albert Schweitzer said, "It is through the idealism of youth that man catches sight of truth and in that idealism he possesses a wealth which he must never exchange for anything else." The innovation and talent of America's youth is indisputable. Just two years ago Tara Lipinski became the youngest figure skater in history to win an Olympic gold medal. In 1976, when Steve Jobbs and Steve Wozniak were just 21, they invested everything they had in an idea. That idea, the personal computer, revolutionized the world's mass media and communications industries. The potential power of our nation's youth is phenomenal; however there is one aspect of American life in which the apathy of our youth is equally astonishing: political involvement. If today's youth continue not to participate in politics, they will upset the popular vote and democratic process through which our nation elects its leaders. In order to ensure the democratic process, the nation must ensure that Generation X and its followers exercise their voices and votes in U.S. political races. The reforms that may improve voter apathy in youth are numerous, but the most important changes involve utilizing technology, restructuring the voting process, and improving poll accessibility.
Jobs' and Wozniak's invention eventually enabled individual American families to connect to the greatest database in the world: the Internet. Young people flock to this tool, using it to gather information and communicate with others. By utilizing this media candidates can communicate with an enormous number of young people in a very efficient way. A good example of the effectiveness of this tactic is Minnesota's 1998 race for Governor. Jesse Ventura's campaign manager told ABC News that the campaign used the Internet to appeal to young voters. Ventura's campaign had a web page and sponsored several online chat sessions with the candidate. In addition to candidates making their views known on the web, non-biased cites such as the league of women voters should be more widely publicized. These cites give people the opportunity to examine the issues in an election without being overwhelmed with propaganda. One way in which the Internet should not be employed is through online voting. This process would be too vulnerable to fraud and abuse.
If used correctly the Internet can be an effective medium through which candidates can discuss issues with young voters and voters can find unbiased information about all political issues. Today's networking technology can also contribute to the restructuring of the voting process itself. Many voters, young and old alike, are not thinking a great deal about an election six weeks before it takes place. Asking voters to register this far in advance is not very effective. If they have not registered, voters who become motivated as the election approaches may not be able to vote. Although the Internet is susceptible to fraud, Local Area Networks, or LANs, are easier to secure and control. Most large businesses and schools have systems like this in place. If cities, counties, or states established LANs between voting locations, voters could register on the day of the election and vote at the location that is most convenient for them. The LAN could insure that they did not vote multiple times and would be more dependable than the current tracking-by-hand method that many states still employ.
Another necessary reform to the voting process is an addition of a national full, or half-holiday during which people can vote. Right now the decision to give employees time off to vote is at the discretion of the employer. People with stable jobs can afford to take off several hours off to go to the polls. However, students and young people who have not made their way up the corporate ladder do not have this luxury. In essence, the current situation is similar to a poll tax; in order to exercise their rights to vote, people in lower level jobs must give up some of their daily salary. By reforming the voter registration process and removing this salary penalty, the polls would be more accessible to young voters.
The last kinds of reform that will encourage young voters to participate in the democratic process are reforms to the electoral system itself. Many school campuses are politically charged places. Everyone has an opinion and at least a few people express those opinions very vocally. As a result many students assume that the majority will be heard off campus as well; they don't believe that their single vote will make a difference, when the majority of their peers are already expressing opinions. One system in which young people will know that the majority won't rule alone, is the system of proportional representation. In this system a district, county, or state would be assigned a certain number of representatives. The proportion of the representatives elected would be divided according to the division of the votes. For example, in a district with four representatives, if 75% of the votes go to one party and 25% go to another, the less popular party will still hold a quarter of the seats in the district. This system encourages multiple parties to enter elections because both large and small parties can win seats. Parities outside of the traditional two party system are often appealing to young voters. They give youth a chance to define their political views without relying on their parents' parties.
Another way to encourage smaller parties to enter races is through instant runoff voting. This type of election allows voters to rank their choices. Only a candidate with over half the votes can win the election. If no candidate has a majority, voters second choices are considered. For example, in a race between two major party candidates and a minor party candidate, a voter could vote for a minor party candidate and rank one of the major party candidates second. By doing this the voter would not have to vote for one major party candidate simply because he did not want the other major party to gain the office. The appeal that third party candidates have toward youth can be seen in Ventura's Gubernatorial election in Minnesota as well as in Robert Anderson's run for congress on the Green Party's ticket in New Mexico. By making elections more accessible to third parties and allowing minority representation, more young people may become interested in and understand the power of their votes.
There is no quick solution to the problem of young voter apathy. However, there are many tools available to the country's political groups, which can be employed to encourage young voters to become more involved in politics. By encouraging the voices of minor parties, making polls more accessible, and utilizing the internet the nation can encourage its younger generation to take an active interest in voting. ABC News estimates that there are 45 milling people in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 29. The intelligence and potential of these 45 million citizens is without bounds, but it will not go far towards improving the state of our nation until young people take an active interest in the politics of America.
Essay themes: getting citizens educated about voting and candidates
Political participation by young people has plummeted. The reason for this, in my opinion, is because we are afraid or not sure of how to do it. I am not yet old enough to vote, but my older friends do not vote. I have asked them why many times, but the answer is always the same. They have know idea how to vote, or who they should vote for. Many of my friends do not watch the news, or follow up on the political campaigns. When it is time to vote, they see faces of the people running for office, but have know idea who they are. They do not know the goals of each candidate, or how they can help the world. This problem does not only effect my friends and I, but also my parents.
When I am old enough to vote which will be soon, I will not know who is running. This is too bad though, because I would like to participate in our future. One way that the government would acknowledge people about the candidates would to have a description of the candidates. They could have little booklets in the voting booths, or have recordings of the candidate's speeches playing when the people come to vote. If a person is confused on whom to vote for, they could go into a little booth and learn more about it. This would give the candidates who don't watch television, or who don't have a television a chance to see the candidates and learn more about them.
This may not be the problem all around the country, but it is a problem here where I live. Many of the younger people go to school all day then work all night. They do not have time to sit at home and watch television. Even if they wanted to watch all the campaigns their bosses would not allow it. If this change occurred in my county, I think there would be more voting, and it would mean something. The people would not just cast a vote and not care. They would know what they are doing and would know that they did something to help the country. In my county we think that know one cares much about us, but with this change it might change peoples view. They will think that the government must care if they went through all of this trouble just for us to vote.
This may seem like a lot of work, but if this was done and
everyone knew everything there was to know voting would be a
lot better. I think that the percentages would go up, and every
one could feel a little better about the government. In knowing
they helped make a difference. I hope that you will take my
idea into consideration, because I feel it would do a lot of
good. Thank you for reading my essay, and I hope that it will
do some good.