Essay themes: Media and a lack of political knowledge, Electoral College, Registration barriers
JACK C. ARDUINI
SARAH A FULLER
OLA J FRIDAY
TIMOTHY J PEARSON
NICOLE MANNING NORTH BALDWIN, NY
JOSEPH CHENG EAST ELMHURST, NY
Essay themes: Media and a lack of political knowledge, Electoral College, Registration barriers
Whether in ancient Athens or modern-day America, an integral part of participatory democracy is the election. It is hoped that through actively selecting representatives who share their philosophy, the citizenry can be assured of that their government will be responsive, that their leaders will act in their interests, and that ineffective or corrupt officials do not stay in power for too long. However, theory -- as is often the case -- does not work as well in practice.
A persistent concern among political scientists is the persistent
lack of enthusiasm for voting by the citizenry. Countries without
compulsive voting are lucky to see participation rates of over
60%; some American local elections have seen a quarter of that.
Without demonstrating their presence, many groups are ignored.
For instance, New York City's Chinatown is not represented by
a Chinese in Congress, in the State Legislature, or even in
the City Council. Their concerns, therefore, are rarely reflected
in legislation. The poor, too, are much less likelier to vote
than the wealthy, so they are less
Nevertheless, the lack of political knowledge is still a serious
concern. For example, most Americans know nearly nothing of
Reagan's agenda and its results, save for the huge defense buildup,
even after he had served for eight years. If they do not know
what their president does, how can they be trusted to hold lower
elective officials, such as their congress people, accountable?
How can they be relied on to choose between freshman candidates?
Some have argued that voters are rational, that they vote not
only for where the candidates stand on the various issues, but
also for the candidates? Leadership skills and track record.
One must wonder, though, how rational it is to choose a leader
who does not share their beliefs. To put it bluntly, would it
be rational for the cardinals of the Vatican to choose Dalai
Lama to be the next Pope? However incompetent the leading
To be fair, the public is not totally stupid. One of the main reasons they are not informed about current events is the media. In the old days (read: before this century), newspapers served small, distinct, and interested groups. They provide valuable, albeit biased, information about policy debates. When the penny press mushroomed, these small presses either followed the trend or became insignificant. The old opinionated New York Post became the current yellow tabloid. As publishers chase advertisers, who chase as large a segment of the population as possible, news are replaced by yellow journalism. Crimes became more important than serious debates. With the advent of television, the situation worsened. Without any reliable source of information, the public became disinterested more and more with politics, because only political - or increasingly, personal - scandals are allowed breathing room.
The dearth of knowledge creates more problems. As people become
There are also fundamental defects in the election process
that are impossible to eliminate. For example, a very motivated
interest group, such as steel workers? unions, farmers, and
the NRA can win elections and attention because other people
The electoral college system in the United States also makes campaigns less focused on issues. Since no one wants to waste a vote on a third-party candidate who has no realistic chance of winning the presidency, candidates from outside the two dominant parties are discouraged from running. Moreover, even if the system were done away with, the fact that only one vote is allowed per person still may not produce the best winner. People do not want to waste their votes, and their secondary choices are not reflected in the polls, so that the least-liked candidate (on a feelings scale) still can win an election. Giving voters more choices are not fool-proof, either, since one-issue voters can still create an outcome to the dismay of the majority.
Campaign finance is another problem. It is the root of the
problem with Alfonse D'Amato and his Senate Banking committee
chairmanship, and it was the problem with an one-term Attorney
General from Erie County in New York State. It is the reason
why so many congressmen continue to win elections in districts
where they are far enough from their constituencies that they
may as well be Martians. It is insane for presidential
The length some representatives occupy their office, too, is worrisome. There is nothing inherently bad about career politicians. The left has their FDR's, the right Ronald Reagan's. It is more likely than not an experienced leader who brings the best out of us; after all, generals are made from experience. But when officials stay in office because of money, well, then something is wrong.
Besides structural problems, there are procedural problems with real-world situations that discourage people from voting. For example, the United States again does not have an automatic registration process in place. Even though numerous studies that have shown the effectiveness of a change would bring, it has not gained much popular support. Voting on Tuesdays, too, should be eliminated and replaced by holiday voting. Mailed votes can further increase voting by 4%, according to Franklin. In addition, voting fatigue is unfortunately too common in the U.S. and Switzerland, the two worst democratic nations in terms of voter participation. Some voters had to vote for over 100 items in Illinois last year, while some Swiss go to the polls seven times a year. It is an absurd burden on citizens, especially on the poor. Finally, mandatory voting is the single most effective way to get people to the polls. It also encourages people to pay more attention to politics and to make better choices at the ballot box. It is a shame that it has actually lost support in many countries, and never seriously considered in others.
One quote summarizes all the points the best. Many decades
ago, while fighting a global war against some of the worst evils
the world has ever seen, a great statesman named Winston Churchill
said, "No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise.
Essay themes: Make registering and voting very easy, provide simple comparative information on candidates
Unlike most young people I registered to vote when I turned 18 and have voted in every election since. I realize that the right to vote is something that people in some other countries do not have. I also realize that many men and women gave their lives so that we could be a free nation. The right to vote is something that all Americans should take seriously, but at the same time, people should not be making uninformed decisions.
I think some reasons that most young people do not vote include: young people don't have time to listen to lengthy debates over issues that they don't completely understand, they don't think that it makes a difference who gets elected, and for years they have seen one politician after another break their campaign promises.
Following are some ideas that I think would increase the number of young voters. I would make it extremely easy to register, college applications should double as voter registrations (if desired by the applicant) as should other forms of applications. In this computer age the transmission of information is very easy, it would involve only a few mouse clicks for anyone to forward voter information to the proper place.
I would change the way that Election Day operates, first I would make the length of time to vote longer, maybe five days long. Second there is no reason that a person should have to go to a specific place to cast their ballot, if we can go anywhere in the world and withdraw thousands of dollars from a cash machine why do are we still forced to go to one location to vote? I would replace the rickety old voting booths with new modern ones and locate them in more convenient places, maybe malls for example.
The final thing I would suggest is that some kind of chart be available that would list 25 or so issues and where each candidate stands on each one and what their plans are. This chart would need to be brief and have straightforward answers, no question dodging or political mumble jumble allowed. This would allow young people who might not yet know everything about the government or politics so make an informed decision based on the issues that they care about.
I think if these suggestions were implemented we would start to see younger people at the polls, and I think once more young people started to vote we would see increases in other age categories that would not want to be outdone by the young generation.
Essay themes: Correlation between voting and education, local and third party politics
Political participation is directly correlated with education in terms of, both breadth and caliber. The relationship, according to the General Social Survey, is positive and monotonic. Not only is education related to participation, the more educated a particular voter is, it can be assumed, the more informed the individual's vote will be. Participation and quality of education is a function of available resources. Resource allocation for education is provided mainly by the local school district by way of individual property assessments and the subsequent property tax base. To date, education finance reform has occurred in only seventeen states, yet the implementation of such judicial reform has stalled in the legislative branches of many of these state capitals. Thus, it is in my opinion that the first step towards improving voter participation is to reform a rather inequitable and often inadequate education financing arrangement. State inspired reform is the only viable alternative. A Federal dictum would only further alienate those factions opposed to external influence on local autonomy. Analyzing the argument in lieu of the historical context of the financing system would be inexcusable. Therefore, reform must take place where a voter's individual voice has more say, and where each representative is more accountable. The experimental nature inherent in the diversity of the States would allow for the development of a perfect marriage between equity and adequacy. Improvements in the American education system alone will only affect those who continue in the system. Unfortunately, the demographics of voter participation indicate that a broad cross section of the American electorate does not adhere to the belief that voting is fundamentally necessary. Many neglect the voting booth altogether, while still others choose only to participate in "important" campaigns (e.g. presidential, congressional, or gubernatorial). These more influential public figures often bolster the tallies at the local voting booths, yet it is the local and county officials who are more apt to formulate policy that directly effects families and persons on an individual basis. The analysis then most focus on voter turnout at these seemingly trivial elections for state and local offices. Local participation could be bolstered through a revitalization of a community's town meetings. Initiative and referendum voting coupled with the previously mentioned forums would facilitate the reintegration of citizens into the governmental decision-making process. Even without empirical evidence to validate the assumption, it can be inferred that citizens understand the direct relationship between their vote and the policy issue in referendum voting. States that employ the two in policy formulation experience a marked increase in grass roots campaigning. Local campaigns are better prepared to serve the particular constituency that they represent. Democracy from below is a culmination of individual ideals manifested in the agenda of local legislatures. Therefore, direct democracy must be instituted in theory and practice in order to harmonize those who have become disillusioned with the political machines dictating the political tides and maintaining the status quo. A final element requiring recognition is the state of the third party or independent candidate. Ross Perot was able to make two consecutive attempts at the White House. While not winning, the Perot Campaign enabled other non-aligned politicians to embark on reform-minded campaigns. The need for an alternative choice is something that is particularly relevant in the face of the moderation of the American political environment. Leading political figures on both sides of the political spectrum often appear as slightly skewed reflections of the opposition. The status quo in American politics is maintained by the ambiguous campaign promises made by the homogenous candidates. The dichotomy of American politics allowed candidates to align on one side or the other of the publicized issues. The third party candidate when allowed to participate has been able to invigorate the often cut and dry campaign debate. Often functioning more as a mediator or brainstorming, a third candidate forces the mainstream candidates to be more aware of the potential threat of the disenfranchised electorate. Many Americans, especially younger voters, feel alienated and become disgruntled with the Democratic and Republican Party candidates. Increasingly, the influence of special interests has come to the forefront of campaigns. As this information is disseminated across the nation, individuals are pushed away from the policy arena, and become further disenfranchised. With regards to recent news, the decision to require a fifteen-percent poll rating for presidential election debates illustrates the uneasiness of the two mainstream political institutions. In conclusion, several elements of the American electoral system require reinforcement. A combination of the three initiatives discussed earlier would most certainly aid in a return to a heightened voter turnout. Besides the empirical improvements, a return to a hands-on election and policy process would allow those who are interested in dramatic change and cultural revolution to be better represented. The demographic of youth, which is underrepresented at the election booth, is underrepresented in policy initiation because politicians realize that there is no accountability factor. In order to reestablish accountability, this sub-culture must be integrated into the civic minded population. Intrinsic to this argument is educational reform. At the heart of education reform is the question of adequacy and equity. Individuals and interests once alienated by the process need to be better served by the electoral system. An abundant subculture, which fits into this prevalent category, is today's youth. Our life span shall see the most profound technological, and more precisely, communicational innovations than any previous generation. In order to ensure that the political establishment is attuned to these innovations, the demographic growing up with the new technologies must become active in the political process. On the same token, growing up in this post-modern age carries with certain responsibilities. The most important is in having the government and federal bureaucracy conform to the post-industrial world, and rid the establishment of its inherent desire for perpetuation and maintenance of the status quo.
Essay themes: Need for reliable candidate information, election
advertising, Internet voting
First of all, although local television stations and newspapers are filled with information about the elections and political campaigns that are happening, the information is scattered, and it is confusing to pull together the important facts from various sources. One newspaper may run a large feature on the Republican candidate, for example, without ever really telling what he or she stands for, while a competing newspaper may have an equally long article on the opposing Democratic candidate. In order to get the full picture, voters must get and read both newspapers, and even then, they may have to look elsewhere for more information on the candidates.
Therefore, I would like to see, in every paper, not only articles on the candidates, but a brief summary of the candidates and what they stand for. Perhaps this could be done in a chart or other easy-to-read format. The voters are people like myself, we are all busy and may not have time to read and watch several different sources to get all the information about the candidates. It would be eminently useful if we could, in addition to seeing the current articles run in newspaper and on TV, see just the bare-bones outlines of what the politicians believe in, and what they hope to accomplish in office. In this way, more voters would be likely to be informed, without having to do a lot of studying of the candidates and the issues. This would increase the likelihood of potential voters coming out to vote, just because they were well-informed of the candidates and the issues.
The procedure on voting day needs to change, as well. It needs to be easier for voters to find their assigned place to go vote, again perhaps through publication in the local newspaper and television stations. Furthermore, it needs to be easier for voters to obtain absentee ballots. Many young, registered voters will miss elections due to being away at college. That was the reason I did not vote in this previous November local elections. I was halfway across the state in my local university, and had no means for getting home to vote, and no means for getting home to pick up an absentee ballot. It wasn't because I didn't care that I didn't vote, but because I had no way of getting to the voting booth. That is why I propose that elections, particularly national elections, are also held on the Internet, through a secure website. This would be a tremendous help to college students who do not go to school in the same district in which they are registered. It would also, I think, entice some others who would not be able to get to a voting booth to get on the Internet to vote. It doesn't get any easier than that, when most homes in America have at least one computer, and the vast majority of those homes have Internet access.
Utilizing these suggestions should increase the number of young Americans of voting age to get out to the voting booths, or as the case may be, log on to the Internet and get into the "virtual voting booth." This will also increase the number of young Americans who are politically active, because they are more politically aware.
Essay themes: Age change to run for office, eliminate electoral college, open ballots to third parties
To increase participation by young people in politics, many changes in the electoral system should be considered. The first would be a change of age limits for candidacies of public offices. Eighteen year olds are able to vote in elections for such positions as Congresspersons and presidents, but are unable to run for these positions themselves. This sends people a signal that an eighteen year old is not smart or mature enough to handle these positions, even though they are considered bright enough to vote for people running for these offices. A change should be made so that the registration age would also be the candidacy age for any public office. At this point, persons running for the offices are, in the case of the presidential election, at least twice the age of the youngest voter. Possible voters may feel that the candidate cannot appropriately address the issues important in their own life, and may never because they are not competing against one who could more appropriately identify with the voter. If one can vote for a candidate, why can they not be one? Also, the electoral system needs to be done away with. The presence of this system shows us that the representatives still do not believe the American people are mentally equipped enough to vote for an appropriate president. This is a put down for all the people. The system should just be one of popular vote, that way the candidates may feel it more necessary to campaign in smaller states, and each vote would carry an equal share of the election. We should not rate a Texan more than a Vermonter. Both should just be seen as the voting public. Funding is another important issue of our time. One person is given more respect and time because they posses more money and clout than another person. This is not right in an equal state. Better documentation of each and every donator should be listed and made public. This should not be a government run by rich persons and large corporations. Each candidate should be allotted a certain period of free time on different types of media for political commercials. Federal and state dollars could go to help fund specific elections, leaving a candidate less dependent on a lobbying source. Although lobbies may belong in the government system to promote change, they do not belong in election financing. The media has an adverse effect on elections. Promising candidates are frightened to run in elections because they fear what may be published about them. Voters are discouraged from voting since they may believe no candidate seems truthful and good in present day elections. It seems to voters that everyone who runs in political campaigns are out for something and the need of the people are not taken into consideration when important bills are presented in Congress. Media should stop the smear campaigns and focus on just pure politics in today s elections.
Third parties should have better access to the ballot. It should not be where a candidate can run in New York and California, but not in Vermont because the candidate did or did not have enough registered voters to sign a petition. It should be an all state, or none of them, system. There should be a specific number of voters a candidate would need to sign a petition to get them on all the state ballots. That way, each person in any state could express themselves as well as another in a different location. These changes all address fairness in elections. This makes all votes equal, and gives all voters the chance to be heard.
Essay themes: Campaign negativity, lack of defining issues,
It is beyond obvious that something must be done about the apathetic views of the youth of this country concerning politics. Instead of young people branding voting as a hassle or a waste of their time and effort, they should be looking at it as a chance to voice their opinions and as a way to play a role in the future of the nation. Some who do have an interest in voting are put off by the fact that they haven't registered, and quite frankly don't know how. It seems that a major overhaul of the voter registration process is in order. Firstly, voter registration must be made much more accessible for young people. Voter registration could become a regular part of draft registration and outreach programs located daily at places where our youth gather, such as the malls, movie theaters and school campuses of America wouldn't be such a bad idea either. An idea that has been proposed in many states is that of "motor voter". Such a program would allow citizens to register to vote when they apply or renew their driver's license. This would dramatically increase the number of young registered voters. Another question to consider is "Why the obscurity"? Voter registration days are held so few and far in between and often lack proper advertisement. With the technology of the Internet that we have at our fingertips, why not allow for registration 52 weeks of the year via World Wide Web? Once voter registration strategies are improves and large numbers of new voters arise, political referendums would keep their attention and raise interest. How do you suppose young voters might respond to referendums on scholarships and financial aid or job creation? Such tactics would raise awareness and give new life to now dormant political opinions.
Next, what is needed, and long overdue in our political system, is a leveling of the playing field. For far too long now, young American and even just Americans in general perceive that the offices to be filled always go to the highest bidders. We have seen time after time, politicians entering the game and soon after, dropping out. Their message is often buried obscured by the competition when the come in, but quit clear when they leave: "I regret that I must leave the race due to lack of finance". Sure, all politicians should have the right to free speech, but somehow I see an irony in allowing one candidate to shout out all the others. If people didn't feel that their candidate was defeated before they even began, they might actually stay interested. It seems that even major candidates have trouble getting on the ballot. For instance view the recent troubles of John McCain in New York State.
Now we've arrived at the third leg of the battle - Election Day. We've fought our way through registration and remained afloat all the campaigns, but will we make it to that booth on time? Often more experienced voters will wake up and hour early on Election Day and will take the time to cast their vote before they head of to a long day of work. They realize that after the whistle blows and they've punched out, they may get home too late or arrive too tired to trek of to the nearest public school. Most of our youth doesn't have the same dedication to suffrage and can't be bothered to change their schedule just to fit the needs of that one day. Between hectic agendas and not to mention weather, Election Day has become a dreaded occasion. But why should getting to the poll be any problem at all? I would think that with our modern age we would be able to come up with some sort of convenient alternative. In addition to having polls set up at local school, why not have them set up at work places or even supermarkets? You could vote on your break or on your way to pick up milk and eggs. But the most obvious option to me seems to be online voting. It's already been done in Alaska and the results were substantial, changing the outcome of the election. Defense against voter fraud could be made just as good or even better than any that is now in use. Not only would this improve voting participation among youth, it would also increase participation by voters of all ages.
Now, I'm not saying that these ideas are foolproof and guaranteed to produce 100% voter participation, but we've got to start somewhere. In the past there have been poll taxes, test and even dead people voting. Suffrage has reached the point it has today in starts and fits, not smoothly and all of sudden. Those who are content with the voting process as it is today must have seriously askew sense of democracy. A system where in some cases only 30% of eligible citizens elect to vote does not seem like a functioning democracy to me, or is certainly less than ideal. With such a small percentage of voters casting their votes at the polls, the opinions of the masses is certainly not represented. For those who argue that not everyone would respond to Internet voting or easier voter registration, it may not necessarily be perfect, but there's no way it could make things any worse.
So where I can't help but agree with the old expression "if you didn't vote, you have no right to complain". I also have to question that if you're not going to be of much help to a large majority of the population who does not have the proper information to cast their votes and voice their opinions, how can you call yourself a democracy?
Essay themes: Proportional representation
The plurality system in the United States allows a candidate to receive office without an absolute majority of votes. Victory is awarded to the candidate with the greatest number of votes, regardless of the actual percentage of votes it represents. Therefore, as a result of this plurality system, voters realize that representation is not proportional to their votes. This assumption consequently leads to lower voter turnouts by several groups of people. For instance, supporters of minority groups understand that under the current system, their minority candidate would not receive the necessary votes necessary to win an office under the plurality system. Therefore, these constituents fail to vote because they realize their candidate can not receive the necessary votes needed for an office. Another alienated group of voters would be extremists that would normally also fail to voter in the electoral system because their primary candidates could not possibly win the necessary votes needed for office. A solution would be to establish approval voting as a mechanism for the electoral process, rather than the current plurality system. Approval voting is an adequate proportional representation system with limited and negligible problems. Approval voting allows a constituent to vote for as many candidates as they desire. The voting system is more flexible than the current plurality system. A voter can vote for their favorite candidate and simultaneously for the other primary candidate in the race. Approval voting would increase voter turnout by extremists, since they would come out to the polls to vote for their extremist choice and would also vote for their second and third choices. Approval voting would also give minority candidates their fair share of votes, since the minority voters can vote for their primary choice and their other choices. Therefore, minority candidates would sincerely receive the appropriate number of votes they deserve, without interference from the bandwagon effect. Approval voting would eliminate the bandwagon effect, since minorities can vote for their primary choice and their second and third choice candidate, rather than simply bandwagoning with the probable victor.
Divided and institutionalized government is a significant impediment to innovation and change in government. Approval voting can abate this problem by assuring an increase in voter turnout, unlike the current electoral system of plurality voting cannot obtain an adequate increase in voter turnout without change. Approval voting can abate this problem, and can be initiated with a simple state statute and does not require a constitutional change. Approval voting also has other benefits, such as eliminating negative campaigning. A candidate would refrain from negative campaigning on another candidate since it would alienate the chances of receiving the second and third choice votes from the constituents that desired to vote primarily for the other candidate. Approval voting has many benefits and can be very successful if it is initiated.
Essay themes: Advertising and politics not marked to youth
There are easy answers as to why young people don't vote: we're uneducated, apathetic, and apolitical. All of these make great headlines for Time and Newsweek, but it is far from the truth. Yes, not all young people vote. It is not because we are uneducated, apolitical or apathetic. It is due, in part, because the political system is not real to us.
We live in a culture where the extreme, the graphic and the immediate are worshipped. Our parents skied, we do extreme downhill; our parents surfed, we snowboard; our fathers pierced their ears, we pierce our noses, eyebrows, lips and tongues. Television reflects our need to make things real. Our parents watched "Gunsmoke" and "Howdy Doody". We watch "America's Most Wanted" and "Real TV". We have been inundated with sensation, gore and feeling. This is what is real and valuable.
The American political system is not real. It is hard to create a "rush" about the latest trade talks, new agricultural subsidies, or elections for the local school board. These are mundane and require time, negotiation, and political subtlety. This can't compare with the feeling of leaping of a ten-foot cliff, strapped to a snowboard, nose ring freezing in the wind.
We are not apolitical. Most of us know something about international relations, trade and health care. Mass political movements have taken over civic participation. We feel a rush participating in a mass demonstration against the World Trade Organization. We feel a rush shouting our opinion about the Elian Gonzales case. We feel a rush, standing shoulder to shoulder with ten thousand others while a rock group screams out slogans on AIDS, Tibet, or vegetarianism. This is real politics to most young adults. It is visceral, its tangible and its public. Going down to the local elementary school to punch a card is none of these. Instead, it is time consuming, dull and unexceptional.
The routine of voting is not a public spectacle. It is highly unlikely your friends will see you doing it. You will not end up in some group shot on the evening news. You will not have a cool scar, a new piercing or tattoo reading "I voted in the 2000 election". We vote, so do millions of others. Our single individual vote makes very little difference in political outcomes. Representatives are not clamoring for our opinion before casting their vote. Once they have been elected to office, officials often concentrate on those who can make a difference in the next election: the wealthy, the middle class, the 45 year-old Soccer Mom who can write that $200 for the next fundraiser.
So how do we make all of this real enough to get more young people involved in the vote? It is not a matter of making information on politicians available. America is inundated with more political information than we can process. Not only can I find out how my school board representative voted on the latest school book adoption, I can get their tax return, find out what gifts they received and probably find what style of underwear they prefer. Information is so abundant because we keep trying to make politicians more real.
In his 1992 presidential campaign, Clinton realized that real, intimate relations were what voters wanted. He included the traditional stops (Shriners, PTA's , pancake breakfasts) with new events to create a closeness with non-traditional voters. He appeared on talk shows, morning newscasts, and MTV. He discussed subjects not regularly on a candidate's screen. He discussed his infidelity on "Sixty Minutes" and his underwear selection on MTV. This exposure created a sense of closeness that the other candidates could not duplicate. As a result, he collected a large number of votes from people under twenty-five.
Instead of demanding more information, teachers need to learn to use what is there to interest students in the political system. Most American history and civics classes are taught like literature: a great story to be told. While information is passed on, the fact that this affects the student is lost. Every semester I have eighty to ninety students at a local university in my American Government course. Their first assignment is to relate an event in their life to the Bill of Rights. We spend a week examining what the Bill of Rights says and why it was written. Students then must write a three-page essay relating a right to a personal experience. After much grumbling, most students complete it with some insight. Many can relate the freedom of speech, and the right to bear arms, right not to be randomly searched (this is a New York City university) to a personal experience. When topics are related to their life politics become more real. As a graduate student in political science, I love the history and development of the state. Reading the transcripts from the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Iranian publics? response to US bombings is fascinating to me. This does not intrigue my students. Relating the lesson to something recent is what gets them hooked. It also makes things easier for them to remember. Talking about racial profiling in New York then relating it to several amendments makes things tangible.
We need to move away from teaching our students stories about politics. In general, it takes less work to relate a lesson to something that happed last week then something that happened eighty years ago. We, teachers, must make civics alive. Until then, government will remain dead for many students. If the system is dead, we give people no reason to participate. If we wait until students are freshmen in college, it is almost too late. At that point, we have lost eighteen years to breathe life into politics. We must revise civics in our schools and treat it as important as math, spelling or reading if we want to create civic-minded adults.
Essay themes: Political issues versus ideologies, media coverage
The problem of low political participation within the youthful generations lies at the voting booth. Numerous voter registration drives are held each year, but elections continue to have low voter turnout, especially from my age group. Other kinds of action must take place to reverse this trend; we must make changes in our democratic system and reformat our party structure. We are an issue rather than ideology based group, therefore our political beliefs are not encompassed entirely be the right-wing or the left-wing. Unfortunately, these are the primary choices we are given at the polls and these are the only sides we are presented with from the media. The political positions of my generation are easily understood by a quick examination of our historical and social context. Born immediately after the tumultuous and liberal 1960s and '70s, we grew up in a socially and economically conservative era. We witnessed the Cold War, the Iron Curtain, and the Berlin Wall. And, we saw each one tumble. In high school history classes we learned that the Holocaust was a part of the past and then we turned on the evening news and witnessed Ethnic Cleansing. Communication technology has flourished in our lifetimes and with it we have seen murder turned into a game and scandal turned into glory. A president that many of us were not old enough to vote for made our country the butt of worldwide jokes. Our heroes have all been killed or stripped of their greatness. Party lines mean little to us because we have learned to deal with life one crisis at a time; there is no clear way to make long-range plans.
In discussing politics with fellow college students I have heard, "I don't identify with a party. I just have strong beliefs about issues". One particular individual once ranted on about how people should be free to make any choices they desire and the government should not get involved. A week later, the same person was proclaiming the ideas of the Green Party. Views such as these do not conform to the current political system. Theoretically, dissolving party lines and thereby shifting political focus to individual issues and candidates would increase effectual political participation from young people.
Of course, there would be significant backlash to this action. Older generations, which have always voted according to party lines, would be suddenly detached from the system they have been familiar with for decades. Young people, like myself, who identify strongly, and work closely, with a particular party would lose a feeling of belonging. There would be a sense of apathy created by this alienation. And, in fact, most experts agree that stability in democracy and order in politics relies on strong and effective parties.
With all things considered, one plausible course of action emerges to promote youthful political involvement. The electoral procedures of the United States must promote party adoption of broad political ideals and programs while discouraging the fragmentation of parties. Parties based on these "cross-cutting cleavages" are more likely to reflect national opinion.
More comprehensive and flexible parties could be achieved by limiting the number of parties that are allowed on the ballot. By no means am I suggesting that additional parties should not be recognized; I have no desire to restrict political speech, as that would be detrimental to democracy. However, by limiting the parties that are officially allowed on the ballot, it may help to persuade the mainstream parties to encompass the values of the more abstract ones, much like the Libertarians work within the Republican Party to advance their agenda.
Additionally, there is need for alterations in the media's political coverage. Parties will remain sharply polarized as long as the press pits the Donkey against the Elephant. Naturally, there can be no "rule" placed on the media to conform to this ideal because it would be unconstitutional abridgment of a free press. This means that to change coverage of politics politicking must change. Our leaders and policymakers must stop using phrases like "Republican issues" and "Democratic issues". Governmental bodies must begin to look at societal rather than political issues; this would put an end to negative media coverage of the parties because the media would have no material to use.
Cross-cutting parties would allow the younger generations to feel less isolated from the ballots. Furthermore, fewer parties would make a person have more faith that a single vote can matter. Parties that are more inclusive will help young voters to believe that the choices that are given to us will be in our interests which will give us more encouragement to go to the polls. Strengthening our political parties and giving us something that we can identify with would help us to fulfill our needs for security and belonging in way that would be beneficial to our lives and our communities.
Essay themes: Lack of information and training for election
For most persons, the best way to learn about our government was to pick up a newspaper, like the New York Times, or the Washington Post. Or possibly, watch the network news on ABC or NBC. Or you could just turn on your radio and catch a radio show on NPR, or anything of that sort. And if you did not have time to do that every day, you picked up a print news magazine like the Times, Business Week, anything. However, in recent years, the age of those who read newspapers, watch the nightly news, watch cable news or even read weekly print news-oriented magazines has continued to drop at a practically exponential rate. And in an effort to entice persons to utilize these news sources, those sources have increasingly stopped covering "boring" or "unentertaining" topics such as public policy and in-depth politics.
So it is a two-fold problem. Persons of the younger voting age are no longer interested in or informed about the political process and the sources that have a responsibility to present the proper information no longer do so. They no longer offer information but rather "infotainment." And due to this, no one is learning anything because there is nothing to learn, and so technically there is nothing that is being produced or to produce.
Now, having recognized the problem, what do we do to fix it? Let's look at news sources first. The government, so as to have informed and interested voters should start seriously mandating and enforcing media laws that require in-depth political coverage, not tabloid-type news "shows" that are passed off as serious journalism. What ever happened to calm, rational political debate? Oh, persons turning red as they rant and rave at each other is entertaining enough, but where is the thought in it? Politics is not supposed to be funny. It deals with our government, which deals directly with our freedoms as citizens and as persons residing in this country. It's not about ratings, it's not about advertising, it's about the persons who would reach out for public positions, it's about the policies that directly or indirectly affect our lives, it's about the laws that we would live with and by. When we have news shows like that, it causes an attitude of amusement and ultimately, disinterest. You laugh, you shrug, you change the channel and do it again with something else. And depending on what's being discussed, it can promote another attitude. One that your vote doesn't even matter, because the persons that really are choosing our representatives are from a rich, extremely educated elite class.
That's the worst thing that can happen. When a majority of the people stop caring, a majority of the people stop voting. And when the majority stops voting, the minority does do the actual choosing, and what happens is the needs of the majority are no longer cared for. And then that just increases the attitude that government doesn't care about the "little people." It's a destructive, pessimistic and cynical cycle that unfortunately happens to be the cycle that this country is caught up in. But it does not stop there. When it comes to political participation and young people, it comes to down to education. If a person, young or old, doesn't know what he or she is voting for, it is doubtful that person will vote. Government and all it's dressings (political parties, public policy, foreign policy, legislative checks and balances) have to be covered extensively throughout compulsory education or compulsory education might as well not exist when to comes to what makes it different from education in another country. Giving a high school student a government class at the end of their schooling, and in most cases where it isn't even required anymore doesn't create informed voters. It creates indifferent voters and politically uneducated voters, if they even become voters at all.
So taking the above ideas into thought, recognizing that a democratic governments gets it's true strength of diversity and choice from informed and interested voters, and from the journalistic sources of society that have a responsibility to extend information objectively and seriously, we can begin to fix the problem of lackluster political participation in the younger generation. It took a long time for the situation to get so serious, and it will probably take a long time to reverse that. But the sooner we begin, the sooner we will finish, and by doing that we will return the American democracy to what it should really be: political participation of both genders, of all races and of all generations.
Essay themes: No issues for young people, no political role
models, need to encourage involvement
The first strategy that needs to be done is to Reach out to the young people. We want to feel that the way we think of a certain candidates, groups, political parties, and issues matters. Visit our schools, our children centers, even churches for those young people who go to church. It matters to us but nobody knows it because they do not ever ask. Even if politicians came to high schools where children couldn't vote it, it would matter because it made them feel important to know that that certain person or persons care enough and in return those children will go and tell their parents that this individual/individuals came to visit them. They more than likely could get a vote from the parent because the politician made them feel that they were a part and important to the political aspect of our system.
The next strategy is to Grab the young people into the political realm. Why? Because they really would like to go. There are so many young people who would love to go out campaigning and to fighting for issues that concern the youth, but older political leaders never go and grab these young politicians and rear them and teach them how to debate and how to represent one's self and political parties and certain groups, if necessary. Young people want to feel needed. They love to express there feelings about the government and about how different issues have an effect on them. But they are waiting for someone like you to grab them and to reach out to them. When is it going to happen?
The last strategy is Use this generation. What I mean by "Use" is that not only do the young people of today society want to reached out to, grab on to, but also to be used. They want someone in the political main stream to take them and allow them to be apart of their political party or to be apart of a civil action group or a group who is trying to take a stand for a certain issue. They want to be spokespersons for groups and to feel that their opinion counts also. They want to be allowed to represent not just themselves, but a group of persons who feel the same way. We want the opportunity to allow our voice to be heard. We want the chance to take a stand for something other than "he said, she said" in school. We want to stand for something that it is important to our mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and even people we don't know. Most importantly we want to take a stand for something that is important to us.
I truly believe that if you use this strategy of pulling young people into political participation, they will come and do a great job of helping our towns, cities, states, and countries moving on to better ourselves in the new millennium. We want you to Reach out to us so we know that you want us. We want for you to Grab us so that we will know definitely that you are determined to get us. And we want for you to Use us so we will know that you mean business and that this is the "REAL THING".
Essay themes: Internet voting
Voter turnout in recent years has begun to fall, especially among younger voters. In a country that is heralded as the epitome of democracy, a forty -percent voter turnout does not represent the ideals of American government. In order for a democracy to function effectively, it must represent the views of a very wide cross-section of the population. The American democracy is not working up to its full potential. The question is: how can voter's interests be perked so they will participate in elections?
The Internet revolution may provide an answer to this problem by making elections easier and attracting many young voters. The Internet has become a very important part of American society by revolutionizing everyday activities. The Internet has made shopping, finding information, and communicating faster, easier, and more efficient. Millions of Americans have logged online and have begun a phenomena that has appeared promising in improving all facets of our lives. The next step in this technological revolution could be to allow people to cast their ballot in government elections from their home computers. Movement to this highly innovative system would have to be a gradual change, with security and secrecy guaranteed at all levels. The California Internet Voting Task Force recently published A Report on the Feasibility of Internet Voting, outlining the possibility of a gradual implementation of Internet voting and how such a process would be carried out.
The first stage in an effective system would be supervised voting, where a person would go to a polling place and cast their vote via the Internet, in the presence of an election official. This will ensure that the person voting is registered properly, and allow secret, secure ballot casting to occur. The report warns that widespread voting changes cannot take place overnight and must be carefully organized, run, and monitored by government. Another organization, Election.com, a private corporation, has begun to move quickly in the area of Internet voting. The company, located in Garden City, New York, calls itself "the first global Internet election company", and has already held elections for unions and other organizations. The company's big test will come in March 2000, when it will hold an election for the Arizona State Democratic Presidential Preference Primary. For three days, registered democrats in Arizona will be able vote in the primary from their homes and offices, or can opt to vote on computers at traditional polling places. To ensure the integrity of the elections, each registered Democrat in the state will receive a Personal Identification Number (PIN) that is specific to encryption and verification codes for his or her name, so no one can vote in place of anyone else. Election.com will use VeriSign's state-of-the-art SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption to secure the Internet elections. This is the same type of security system that many major companies use to secure confidential information on their websites.
These types of elections have many advantages. Elections will become easier for many people. They will not have to travel to polling places that can often be in far-off locations or have inconvenient hours. This type of election process will make voting faster, more interesting, and probably will attract more voters. The California studies estimate that by the year 2003, more than half of American households will have Internet access. That is over sixty million homes. As these numbers grow people will become more dependent on the web, and there will be a propensity towards voting from PCs. Voters not familiar with the Internet may be averse to the new system, but keeping traditional polling venues in place could easily solve this. Internet voting can be used as a supplement, rather than a replacement, until people get used to the new way of voting.
Besides complaints of non-Internet users, one major issue of creating a modernized voting system, is ensuring its integrity, secrecy, and security. There has been worry in the past few years of the rising tide of malicious computer hackers operating over the Internet. In November 1999, a man was convicted of hacking into a particularly alarming target: the White House computer system. The hacker was able to penetrate highly secure government websites, alter pages, and cripple the government system for several days. As recently as February 2000, several websites, including eBay.com, Amazon.com, Yahoo!, eTrade.com, and CNN.com were overwhelmed by hackers. They took advantage of vulnerable computers at several California universities and launched an attack on these high-traffic websites. The attacks sent a high amount of data to these sites very quickly and caused them to crash. These types of incidents, known as denial of service attacks, often prevent users from accessing the affected sites, cause significant financial damages, and may allow unauthorized access to customer information. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, in conjunction with the National Infrastructure Protection Center, is investigating these recent cyber assaults and is becoming increasingly concerned at the vulnerabilities of sites that are supposed to be secure. The NIPC has reported that "technical vulnerabilities used to install these denial of service tools are widespread, well known and readily accessible on most networked systems throughout the Internet". The NIPC noted that the tools are actively being improved and deployed on the Internet and that the agency, "remains concerned this activity could continue targeting other significant commercial, government or national sites".
"Cyber terrorism" is expected to increase in number and severity. Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute's CERT Coordination Center, a research organization designed to monitor Internet security breach incidents, reported over 8,000 incidents in 1999, compared to only 6 in 1988. If major commercial and government computer systems, with state-of-the-art security measures are susceptible to cyber terrorists, what's to stop Internet voting systems from being attacked as well? The ramifications of this go well beyond any financial or accessibility damage. It threatens the integrity of American democracy. If these types of systems have any vulnerability, hackers could change votes, vote multiple times or cause the entire system to crash. In the event of these disasters, there might have to be a revote or the wrong candidates may be declared winner.
America must now weigh the pros and cons of both sides. In the new modernized digital age, there is a proclivity to use technology in any way we can. Internet voting will most likely help increase voter participation but the technology must be trustworthy and even with time there will always be some doubt as to the absolute integrity of any new system. As we cross into the 21st Century, America must choose between faster, better technologies or the integrity of our privacy and secrecy in voting. Either way, the "great American experiment" has lasted over 200 years and will continue to exist throughout whatever challenge we may face.
Sources: California Internet Voting Task Force Report on the Feasibility of Internet Voting CERT Coordination Center (cert.org), Cable News Network website (cnn.com), Election.com Federal Bureau of Investigation website (fbi.gov), National Infrastructure Protection Center (nipc.gov), Yahoo! (yahoo.com).
Essay themes: Why it is hard for young adults to get involved, Internet voting, increasing visibility and information on third party candidates
In, order to find ways of increasing political participation among young people, one must first look at why they are not voting. As a young person myself I have quite an insight into to the possible reasons. One reason for the decrease in voting is the fact that as high school seniors or college freshmen we are too busy starting new lives and learning about ourselves to pay attention to someone that does not understand our needs. As people we feel that whoever gets elected will never meet nor understand what a young person needs or wants. Today's society makes life on a seventeen to a twenty-year-old adult hard. In, order to make it these days young adults have to balance careers, school and making it on their own. This is a lot for a young adult to handle, especially when they are just starting out; this is why voting among young people has plummeted. Now I will discuss how we can spark interest among the young people.
Lowering the voting age would be one step in the right direction to solving the problem. Lowering the voting age adds more young people to the voting population, but they are still too busy to listen politicians rant and rave about the opposing side. As a teenager people want to experience life, and many are still learning how the government works. Required debates would not work, we are so stressed for time now, who has the time to listen. As a young adult myself, I do not want to listen to two candidates telling me how bad the other candidate is. Young adults are usually too busy at night (working jobs, finding scholarships or working at school) to sit down and watch a three hour debate on why a candidate's party is better. A young adult does not like to be screamed at or told they have to vote for a certain party. A young adult does not want to listen an adult that does not care about their interests too.
There are ways to bring the young people out to vote. As we enter the 21st century more and more young adults spend a majority of their time the Internet. Having on-line voting that is easy and protects a person privacy would encourage a young person to vote. The Internet opens the world to people. Another way to bring people out by on-line would to be to possibly set up a web page with candidates campaign views, instead of having a live debate have a list of what the candidates plan to do if they are elected, what areas do they want to improve, and an e-mail address so people can e-mail their questions to that candidate. Having things over the Internet for me and other people would make it easier for us to obtain information about a person. If there was only one website it would be easier for us to find out information on a person; instead of searching for the information (which at times can be hard to find). Also, By voting on-line it is a quick simple way that is easy to do. I go to school full time, play sports and work a job, it is very hard for me to find time in my busy day to go and vote. Where if voting was on-line I could easily log on to my computer at home and vote. I would not have to find time in the day where there is none. I also think that better ballot access for third parties and independents would increase voting. Today's society is so diverse that not everyone has a similar view on things. Many young people feel that they are radicals and do not fit into the Democrat or the Republican Party. It is hard to find information about third parties or independent parties.
It is important to me and other young adults that information is given at a level that we can understand and take in. Politicians yelling and screaming at each other, denouncing the other is going to turn people away. It is also time for the political parties to enter the 21st century and meet the needs of the people of the computer era. It is necessary to make these changes to encourage not only me, but other young people as well.
Essay themes: Increased political education, providing information from unbiased sources on candidates, candidates addressing issues the affect young people, knowing what is important about a candidate
In the US, the public has the right to decide who will run our country. Unfortunately, many young people do not exercise this right; the right to vote. Problems include lack of information on how important voting is, lack of information or misinformation on the candidates, the quality of the candidates and the fact that young people generally have other goals than running for public office. It has been said that the younger generation of voters has the potential of being the most powerful by their sheer mass. It is time for the young people to exercise their right to vote and make a difference.
Almost every candidate has spouted the importance of education in the last few election years but they fail to address the problem with little or no education about current voting procedures. The author of this essay will admit that the knowledge about voting and of the individual political parties is limited despite having taken AP US History in high school. I think that this is a poor reflection on the public education system. If a local congressman did not visit my school, I would not be registered because I would not know how to go about it. Despite the seeming simplicity to voting, it becomes quite complicated without prior knowledge. What party do I sign under? What do the parties stand for? When do I vote? Where do I vote? How does one work the polling machines anyway? These questions can be asked by a young person who is not familiar with the voting system. Unfortunately, this is true for most young people. Young people often have the misconception that one vote doesn't matter. History has documented elections where only a few could turn the tide and elect the other person into office. More emphasis is placed on getting a license than registering to vote. Voting does not immediately effect the average young person whereas earning a driver's license opens a whole new world.
Part of the problem is the lack of unbiased information about the candidates. In order to make a valid decision on who to vote for and why, the information of specific views and positions of the candidates are most widely presented through advertisements on TV which are viewed by most as annoying. The general public does not think about voting until they hear who.
That is why getting information to the public is so vital. If an unbiased source publishes information about the candidates and their individual positions on major issues, then the voter can have an idea before they watch the debates and read the flyers.
Another reason why young people do not vote is because the issues presented by the candidates do not directly affect them. They do not own property, most do not have children and most are still in college or some kind of postgraduate study or work. Property taxes and inflation aren't really a concern for the average twenty something since these issues do not effect them immediately. Candidates should make sure to publicize their opinions on issues that directly effect our largest voter base. Issues such as abortion, minimum wage, tax deductions for college education and drinking and tobacco age restrictions all have an effect on today's young people.
The quality of candidates is also an issue that cannot really be controlled by reforms. Anyone can run for office provided they meet the basic requirements such as age and education. There are no restrictions on moral character or how well the candidate is because that would violate the constitution and would be discriminatory. Running for office is not a popular goal of most young people. Being in the public's eye constantly and having your past life picked apart by opposing parties is not appealing to most people. While a potential candidate and a person currently holding office must be open to the public. I do not believe that the most intimate details about a person's life need to be public or is appropriate. I frown on those who exploit another candidate's faults to gain support. It has been said that politics is a sport and the exploitation of private matters is poor sportsmanship. However, the distinction between private and public is a gray area. A person accepting the responsibilities of holding office must be prepared to be exposed to judgment by the public to ensure that the job is getting done and to assure the public that their government works. Whether or not a candidate has a criminal record should be known to voters whereas how well the person did in high school math is not pertinent. What is important is if the person has good moral standing and that the voter agrees with the positions taken by the candidate.
Voting is a right that all adult Americans possess. This right must be exercised to warrant that the right people are being voted into office and can run that particular position effectively to the opinion of the majority. Those who do not have this right and ability wonder why those who posses this do not do so. We have been taught in school of the sacrifices made by the founding fathers of our country to give control of the government to the people, but over the years this fact has lost its' zeal. If efforts are made to increase education of voting and voting procedures in schools and increase the amount of unbiased information on the candidates to all voters, then we will increase voter turnout among young people.
Essay themes: Internet voting
As America enters the new millennium it is faced with a serious problem: political disinterest by its youth. It is a known fact that Americans do not vote. Compared to other democracies that practice popular voting Americans come to voting booths in significant lower numbers. In fact only 36% of eligible Americans vote. The youth of today do not vote for numerous reasons. Mainly, it is because they are under the misconception that their vote does not count or that the government does not impact their lives, therefore there is no point in voting. I wholehearted disagree. I think the youth of today are the most influenced by the roles of our government. We are the future of this country. In fact, in 20 or 30 years it will be the youth of America who will decide how we want to lead this country.
As a member of the generation that does the least amount of voting I think it is of utmost importance that I offer a suggestion. In order to promote greater political participation by young people I propose online voting. I know this is not a novel idea but I think it is greatly overlooked despite its benefits. We live in a technological age where almost everyone has an email address and access to the web. In fact the youth of today are the most technologically savvy in our society. Kids today are exposed to computers in Kindergarten and by the time they reach the fifth grade they know how to navigate the web. Also, already it can be seen that students are using the Internet for political means. The President's State of the Union Address can already listened to online and every presidential candidate has a website. Even politicians already know the advantages of publicizing on the web. The benefits of online voting far outweigh the drawbacks. This way of voting would mean easier and more convenient access to the voting booth. People will be able to vote comfortably and conveniently in the privacy of their homes. Online voting would also encourage more people, especially young people, to vote because it will be done using a medium they are already familiar with.
I think online voting is very foreseeable in our future. The United States' government could easily devise a secure way for citizens to vote via the web. If online voting is implemented I am convinced that by the next millennium, American citizens will be talking about this ancient phenomenon called they Internet and how it revolutionized American politics.
Essay themes: Replacing the Electoral College, personal investment in issues, Internet voting
I can remember how surprised my U.S. History class was when we were taught about the Electoral College. We could hardly believe that many of the things that we believed to be undemocratic were used in our own presidential voting system. Learning about the Electoral College can be enough for most people to loose faith in presidential elections in this country. The drop in the number of young voters can be attributed to our lack of faith in the system that we are being asked to partake in.
The only way I can see a large increase in political involvement on the part of young people is if the Electoral College is removed and a new system is put into it's place. It should be a system that allows the nation as a whole to elect the leader. Sometimes I feel that California is electing our president while the inhabitants of smaller states might as well not even have the right to vote. A voting system is flawed when one candidate can have more votes nationally than another can but the candidate may still loose the election. It is the presence of paradoxes like this that can get you into the same frame of mind, as when you place yourself into the big picture and realize that you are not important at all. It is the sense of importance that draws people to the polling booths. Without this sense of importance I am struggling to find a reason to get into my car and drive to the nearest poling station for the first time this upcoming November. The increase in political participation by young people, that I know would occur if this major reform were to take place, would bring about a new era where people young and old would feel as if they were taking a larger role in our great nation. Residents in all of the fifty states would know that their vote would have the same weighting under any circumstance.
I understand that political participation does not stop and end with the election of our president but it does account for the majority of the political participation that I see around me. I have found that the majority of young people who define themselves politically active at the very least take part in presidential elections. While in most cases taking part in presidential elections is the only way in which they are active in politics. The fact that young people seem to be getting less active in politics than in the past can also be attributed to the state of the union, which is good. In the past there have been things that young people have tried to fight for or against. For example in the sixties there was Vietnam which made young people much more politically active. The presence of a conflict for which people can take a side and try to change or reform makes people much more involved in politics. People take sides on issues such as abortion and taxes and use this to fuel their political activities but many people need more to get them to vote. This is another reason there is a drop in the number of young people involved in politics. A reform to change the state of the union would be hard to come by. The majority of highs and lows in political participation by younger people can be attributed to the state of the union and will only change when it changes.
A reform that would increase political participation in young people would be voting over the Internet. The added convenience would increase the percentage of young people who vote. When you first think of it you think of how it could be abused but when you really analyze it, it is just as safe as voting at the poles. Some of the things that came to mind when I first thought of it were: people voting more than once, selling there vote and computer security but all of these issues can be taken care of. Public key encryption would be used to identify the voter over the Internet. With public key encryption a person can make a "digital fingerprint" which is very useful when information is trying to be linked to the creator and will most likely hold up in court. To make a "digital fingerprint" one must first encrypt the data using a private key. When this is done only a piece of the data gets encrypted which makes a unique sequence of characters called the "digital fingerprint." When someone decrypts the data using the public key they can then be positive of from whom the information was sent, because only the message encrypted with the corresponding private key will decrypt. The data will also contain the "digital fingerprint." This process can be used with people voting over the Internet just as it has been used in other electronic commerce over the Internet.
Increasing the political participation of young people is something that I feel should be a large concern of ours. Although you cannot force people young or old to vote or take political responsibility. I believe the reforms that I covered here would make a dramatic increase in the number young voters and perhaps even people over 25 who I still consider young.
Essay themes: Electoral college
The Electoral College is inadequate in allowing citizens to vote for the candidate they want. It may be economically infeasible to allow each citizen to be able to express his or her choice of the person who will run the country. That, however, is the ideal. Since it is unpractical, there has to be more ways to increase the voting frequency in our country. In an effort to let voters or potential voters make educated decisions, all candidates running for office should be required to have televised debates. In making their opinions and goals clear, citizens will have a better grasp of which candidate best reflect their image of a leader.
In connection to that, candidates should make available their goals and aspirations in multiple languages. United States is made up of many different cultures and people. Although English is the predominant language, the fact is that many Americans do not speak it with proficiency. It would be wise for candidates to target all of those citizens who would have voted if they knew who is doing what, with a chance that they will vote in their favor. Voting booths in college campuses are a good way to pull college students in as registered voters. Not only should booths be available, but also they should be advertised on college campuses. In many instances, I saw booths on Election Day on my college campus, and they were totally empty. Booths should be placed in a popular spot, such as a student center. If feasible, there should be multiple locations if the school is particularly large. The availability of people to vote on Election Day is another potential obstacle. Many people work full time and at unbendable hours. For them, time taken out to vote is not worth getting their pay docked, or risk becoming unemployed due to failure to be at job site.
This problem may also be remedied by providing more sites in which people can vote. Voting on the web is a great way to make it more available. Although it may cause problems because of the anonymity of web users, online voting is a procedure that can be refined for much potential yields. Another way to increase the voting population is to make the process as simple as possible. At this point, time is extremely valuable. Voters should not have to read a book to learn how to vote. Making it simple will be advantageous because new voters will be encouraged to keep voting. The current voting age enables a majority of high school seniors to vote. Lowering the voting age will not be sensible because of the educational system. As high school seniors, these students can vote with knowledge of the political system. People younger than them may not have that advantage. The most unfeasible of my ideas is to offer some rewards for voting. Granted that it is a civil duty to vote, many citizens view it as an option. There is no punishment for not voting, for instance. Thus, a small reinforcement may the catalyst to start the voting engine. One example of reinforcement may be to grant a small percentage tax break after certain number of years of voting. Another objective may be to reinforcement the behavior of voting through employers. By offering fringe benefits through employers, employees will have more incentive to spend their part of their lunch hour voting.
To conclude, I will reiterate the point that to get people to vote, one has to make the process simple and the means available. Candidates should be more conscientious of how they ought to present themselves in order to make voting individuals aware of who the candidates and what they represent. Until then, people do not in reality have voting power.
Essay themes: Complications with voting, lack of education and examples, candidates should make an effort to attract the youth vote
Political participation by young people is plummeting. In a country where rules and regulations have become so complex, young people feel discouraged about becoming involved in politics. They are not educated at home to partake in political issues. They are not taught in school at an early age that this is a democracy in which the people and the people have the right to change the laws when necessary.
Society discourages youth for becoming actively involved in politics. Issues such as rising college tuition and educational budget cuts, are some of the few things concerning teens that many youths don't that know that they can advocate against. With all these hindrances, are we surprised that American youth are not nearly as involved as they used to be? All American citizens must play a part in educating our fellow youth on how simple is to get involved, to make a difference, to change the world.
All children learn by example. But today's teachers, including parents and educators alike, have become socially inactive in the community. No longer does the average middle-class citizen advocate his or her beliefs on the city streets. Instead, the middle class citizen complains about the high taxes, or insufficient allocation of funds within the budget, or our inefficient healthcare, yet we fail as adults to become actively involved. Over half of middle-class Americans choose not to vote in local election. Support of the PTA staff is decreasing and yet teachers and chancellors of school are continually blamed for failing to educate the children in various subject matters.
Middle-class America is notorious for expressing discontent over matters that both them most that they have the power to change and yet never exercise the power to do so. They fail to realize that this is a democracy, the rule of the people. It's a society where the people make the choices. When American parents, teachers and educators of the like are willing to take a stand, utilize the privileges that American citizens possess, when they march once again for a cause they believe in, when they begin to sign the referendum or attend the local town meeting and get to know their local representative, then and only then will the children follow in the footstep of their parents and become more actively involved in politics. Only when American parents become involved can we expect American children to become involved.
When I see American youth, unaware of who their president is or local representatives are, I realize that this is not the fault of the youth but rather the fault of today's American society. Society does a splendid job of making politics some complicated system designed only for the extremely well-educated masses of people in their 50's and 60's. The media portrays the most interesting political issues in the most boring light in comparison to other things displayed on television for today's youth. Why can't political shows be geared for teens? Why aren't there any kid-related news shows on mainstream TV to have children interested in daily event while they are young? Modern figures are just as important as historical ones. While learning about George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, children should also learn about Madeleine Albright or John McCain. Society has a certain prejudice that the average teen is solely interested in the entertainment such as that presented on MTV. This is not completely true. Most teens become interested in anything that is presented in an interesting light. The current presidential campaign election can become as interesting as a1/2 hour of "Celebrity Death Match, if presented in an appealing way.
Essay themes: Paid time off to vote, Internet voting
"Whatever." This seems to be the slogan for Generation Xers, and Post Gen Xers. Indeed, this philosophy seems to predominate most areas of young people's lives today. The only things young people seem to care about are themselves, and their situation at that moment. This may be why political participation by young people is plummeting. Voting doesn't seem to connect to young people's immediate situations.
As a twenty-one year old in today's world, I can see where many of my peers are coming from, with this "whatever" mentality. We look at the world left for us by previous generations and see what a mess it is. Global warming is beginning to wreak havoc on our Earth, there are millions of people living in poverty, people are fighting over religion and land all over the world. These problems seem so tremendous, and unconquerable. At the same time, here in America, where the standard of living is high for many young people (many are still subsidized by their parents), those problems seem so distant.
For those who are aren't living quite so well, they are burdened with working (sometimes two jobs) just to survive. Those people are too concerned with surviving to think about making it to the polls. For them, "whatever" means whatever isn't going to help them pay their bills isn't relevant.
The key is connecting these people to the democratic system. The first part is finding a way to get people to the poles. I think one way to get low-income voters to the poles is to employ a jury-duty like system in which employers pay their employees for up to two hours missed at work while they are at the polls. For middle class young people, I believe we need to try Internet voting. Also, we should use the media to connect to young people, with programs like MTV's "Rock the Vote". We should use media that young people listen to and watch to inform them about current issues and how they affect them now.
Perhaps if we made young people see how politics are related to them, they would have a motivation to vote, and wouldn't write off such a great privilege with a "whatever."
Essay themes: Candidates don't address youth issues, more debates
Democracy was started on the principle that the common people have the right to build the government. But with the lack of voter turn out among younger voters, we run the risk that the entire new generation will not support the democratic process of voting. This voter apathy can be explained by a number of reasons. Some of these reasons will probably have no definite solution, but others can be quickly addressed, and can lead to reforms that can empower young voters.
First of all, young people feel a sense of alienation from the political process. Candidates mostly concentrate on satisfying the demands of their main voter age group of 25-40. There are practically no young candidates and the main issues do not immediately affect young people. Though there is no way to force candidates to campaign on issues that affect young people, the awareness of this can be very important in increasing voter participation.
Throughout American history, politics used to be a sort of American past time, where people would actively campaign and participate in the processes. In other words, politics used to be a form of entertainment for the American people. Now with the advent of modern technology, entertainment and culture, young people do not derive that type of enjoyment felt from politics anymore.
The reason for the lack of voter participation can be explained in the following economic terms. The time spent registering and voting can be seen as a type of opportunity cost. If the opportunity costs outweighs the opportunity benefits, people will not vote. If the opportunity benefits outweigh the opportunity costs, people will benefit. With our booming economy, many young people are busy with jobs, schoolwork, or their social lives. The time spent registering and voting can be seen as chore, and many do not take the time to do this. Young people do not understand the benefits of taking the time to registering and voting. Even if they did vote, they feel that one vote would not make a difference among the millions of other voters. Therefore, the opportunity costs of voting, which include time, energy and keeping up with the current political situation, outweigh the opportunity benefits of voting, which is electing a candidate who shares one's views.
Now there can be many changes in our electoral system that can increase political participation by young people. First of all, young people should be able to vote without all the hassles of registration. The Internet is a revolutionary technology that is extremely fast and convenient for many young people. Take for example, submitting this essay to the contest judges. I would have to buy stamps, make two copies of this essay with a short cover letter, and walk all the way to the post office. Or I could easily enter the Midwest Democracy Website and easily electronically submit my essay. The principle of this idea can work with Internet voting. The fear of lack of security is no longer an issue with new improved encryption and the advent of e-commerce that simplifies managing expenses through the Internet. Also, votes could be processed much faster, and managed for any type of fraud easily. The convenience of Internet voting can not be understated because young people can vote without leaving their homes, or they could visit their local colleges and libraries to access the Internet. Just as it is now possible to pay taxes electronically, it should not be possible to vote electronically. Voting by mail is also an alternative to those who lack the Internet or live in rural areas where transportation is scarce.
Other reforms that would increase voter participation would also be election-day voter registration. Many young people have busy lives, and forget to go through the voter registration process until it is too late. By allowing same-day registration, the hassle of voting would be simplified by allowing a person to make only one visit to vote. People would not have the excuse of forgetting to register previously as a reason why they can't vote for an election.
As I stated before, young people feel alienated by the political process and feel that the candidates do not share many of their ideas. In other words, young people do not always understand a candidate's message because of the advent of huge media advertising, and rhetoric that takes place between candidates. With the negative campaigning, and unrelenting propaganda on why one candidate is better, politics is no longer entertaining, but disgusting. Young people want information on the candidate's views without any confusion. By requiring debates between candidates for office, this problem can be easily solved. The hassle of the current electoral system and the perceived lack of benefits gotten from voting can explain the reason for the recent apathy of younger voters. By requiring debates between candidates, young people can better understand their candidates. But mainly, by making voting more convenient for young people, and allowing better access to the ballot through Internet voting, voting my mail and election-day voter registration, political participation among young people will start to increase.