High school student
Essay themes: Education; open ballot access
SAVANAH J EARNEST
Essay themes: Education, open ballot access
Many young Americans have little interest in voting for many reasons. Feelings that their vote doesn't count, not really caring because they don't really know the issues and not enough representation. Some candidates are backed strongly by young Americans but aren't on the ballot. From the time we are in grade school we are made to believe we don't count because we are too little and this carries on into high school and beyond. We don't think the issues effect us therefore we ignore them if they are publicized or not. I also think the government under-estimates young people. We care very much where our country is headed but don't know how to change anything. The things that I think would greatly help out this situation is education. From a fairly early age I think it should be made clear that we do count even if we are young and adults should make an effort to see that we know the issues and how it could effect us. Then in High School we should really be shown how we take effect on the country and how the country effects us. We need to learn where we can find out about the issues and what's going on instead of blindly voting. Then the age for voting should be reduced to 17. Because once we know what is going on we really want to be a part of it. Once we are 18 it's a lost -- but not completely lost -- cause. We haven't been educated on our part in this government and we don't think we count. And for the young people who would like to vote but find that their candidate is not on the ballot this is unfair. Whoever said that offices were only open to people of this or that party? This is what really disappoints me about this country. We believe in a fair chance for everyone but by not putting a certain candidate on a ballot is like saying, "oh you're not good enough because you are not one of us". If we want greater participation by young Americans these are the things that would greatly improve the situation, better education, showing us we do count, information about the issues, and better ballots.
Essay themes: Lower voting age; ease of registration & voting; Internet voting
In today's society there is a shortage of young voters. There are many reasons of why this is and there are several things that could be done to turn this percentage around. The main reason for such a small number of young voters is mainly connected with time and interest. As a senior in high school, I can tell you that with so many things to remember and do, voting, much less registering, is probably the last thing from my mind. Eighteen year olds are at that stage when they are meeting the real world for the first time and they have so many things thrown at them at once that it is hard to take time out of their schedule to stop and listen to the speeches, keep up with the election, and then go vote. With having to deal with colleges, bills, and being forced to grow up, the "new adult" age, which holds the low percentage of voters, is extremely stressful and is not the best time to get these people interested in voting. Giving the right to vote at a younger age, even just a year before, would possibly raise the amount that votes, due to fact that seventeen years old want the responsibility and do not have as much stuff to deal with as the seniors in high school do. Anything that would save time would also effect the statistics. Most people want to go vote and be done with it instead of having to make a big ordeal to go clear across town and fight with people to voice an opinion. Putting registration booths up in colleges and high school would be one time effective way to bring in more voters. Also having actual voting stations in a student union or classroom would take the stress off the young voters with easy access right in front of them. Setting up the voting stations so those who are not registered might be able to register and vote at the same time is a very effective way to get people to vote because of the amount of time and travel that they would be saving. Another thing that would attract not only young voters but voters of all ages would be Internet voting. Not only do people want voting to be time efficient but what better way to vote than from the comfort of your own home. No more having to worry about making it to the voting stations before they close and no more having to worry about being attacked by people outside the booths to see how you voted. Internet voting would cease all that confusion and might even be a little faster in counting up the votes by use of computers. Start placing Uncle Sam and his "I want you!" finger as commercials and signs around the web to get people involved and knowing about the upcoming election and I bet the turnout would be overwhelming. Another thing that brings the population of young voters down is the lack of interest that most students have in the elections. Most eighteen year olds I know do not get involved in the elections because they do not believe that their vote matters and do believe that politics are boring. I have never sat down and watched the speeches and debates on television when I was actually interested thinking that these elections effected me in some way. There is just too much to do that watching the elections, that I honestly I do not care about, was never a big priority. Maybe getting young voters involved some way in the elections, whether it be by helping at the voting stations, as spokesmen for candidates, or by helping with the campaigning would strike an interest in the elections. You will always get more involvement by people when they feel that they are a part of something. Regardless of how you do it I believe the main thing that keeps the young voters percentage low would be the amount of time consumed and the amount of interest in the elections. Finding ways to straighten those problems out would be most effective and would raise the amount of "new adults" who go out and vote.
Essay themes: "Why Don't We Vote?" An essay regarding a suggested program designed to encourage young people to become politically active.
"Hey, Paul! It's great to see you again! What classes are you signed up for this year?" Erin enthusiastically greeted her friend.
It was the beginning of their Senior year at Bittersweet High School, and some twelve hundred other seniors were milling about the school yard, meeting old friends and making new ones. "Well," said Paul, "I have AP Calculus, Physics, one final, horrible, English class, and Political Education," he said. "Oh, and I have a work-training thing too, two days a week. Can't forget about that."
"You signed up for Political Ed.?" Erin replied. "Wow, I guess that makes us among the elite in Bittersweet. I hear only 18 kids in the whole school are taking that course this year. I don't understand why more aren't taking it. Why are you taking it?"
"Well, I figured that if you ever decide to run for a position with more grandeur than Class President, I'd want to know at least how to vote for your opponent," Paul joked. "But really, I almost didn't take it. Dad kept saying that it seemed like Big Brother, trying to propagandize us while we're still young. Maybe that's why nobody else is taking it."
"Maybe so," Erin replied, "but there's an easy argument against that idea. It's quite natural, really. Here we have a government school, publicly funded, not even promoting to its students the process, specifically, politics and government, through which it is operated. That seems ruinous!"
"Yes, yes, that is what I told my Dad. Then when I started asking simple questions about how the government works, and we decided that since none of us really knew the answers, maybe the course wasn't so bad an idea after all. I just hope we don't have to learn a whole bunch of useless information to get the basics," Paul replied.
"Oh, no. We won't have trouble at all," said Erin. "I spoke to Dewy Hafta, who's teaching the class, earlier today, and she said the tests wouldn't be hard at all. She said that we're just in there to learn the basics of how our government works. We don't have to memorize any of the pertinent information like how many Senators, Congressmen, and Justices of the Supreme Pizza there are."
"What? Justices of the Supreme Pizza? Oh, I get your drift," Paul said as they parted. "I guess, like Groucho Marx said, 'Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it and then misapplying the wrong remedies.'"
Paul knew Mrs. Hafta, and decided he'd drop by her office to say hello, and to feel her out. He'd never though of her as particularly political. In her office, he found a news reporter was preparing a report on the Political Education class. Let's listen in:
When school starts again this fall, several students will be taking a class never offered before here in Bittersweet. It's called Political Education, and it's designed to get young people motivated in Politics. Valde Lego, director of the California Committee on Democracy, explains the program:
"Several years ago, we noticed a decline in the number of young people who were active in the political arena. What we've developed is a program for high school Juniors and Seniors, to address the issues that are keeping young people out of the voting booth. Hopefully, it will make young people more comfortable and willing to vote when election times roll around."
"The reasons our youth give for not voting are quite interesting, really," says Dewy Hafta, who will be teaching the class. "Children have told me that they have no firm idea of how our government actually works. People are afraid of what they don't know, and this fear and ignorance leads to a distrust of the political system. By educating about the government, we hope to debase this distrust."
"Another reason they don't vote is the overall negative connotation of politics. Hardly a week goes by that we don't hear about another scandal, feud, or project-gone-wrong in Washington D.C. King Solomon said, 'Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people' (Proverbs 14:34). We might not like to admit it, because it comes from the Bible, but it is true. But by calling attention to good leaders we've had, and positive things that our government has accomplished, we can make our government seem a little less evil."
Hafta says that the disdain and distrust of the political arena makes voting seem like more trouble than it's worth, especially when you have to find a voting booth to do it. "About ninety percent of young people say they'd be more likely to vote if they could do it on the Internet. As part of the Political Education course, we will lobby our representatives for on-line voting and for regulations requiring all candidates to publish their voting records. That seems to be something that our young voters want."
"Another big factor," adds Lego, "is that most people, for various reasons, simply don't trust the media. Until now, most of the political education children get has come from the news media. That will end with this program."
"Hopefully, by learning from someone they trust, and someone they can discuss things with, students will become more excited and active in the political arena," Hafta says. "It's all about democracy."
Essay themes: Government, education
The achievements of those who struggled before us were accomplished through a democratic process. Legislation was proposed and through the demand of the people, legislation was passed. Whether it is through actions taken by the Supreme Court, the Congress, or through Presidential decree, it was ultimately, the people who made it happen and thus, made it work. The whole system of our government depends on the involvement of her citizens. Without our voice this generation can lose or even see reverses in decisions made that we now see as a normal part of everyday life. Decisions made with blood, sweat, and heartache by people who wanted a better, life for the generation to come. We are that generation! It is time for us to pick up that fight. We must stand up for what we believe for the simple fact that no one is going to do it for us. It is easy to convenience ourselves that one vote isn't important but we must realize throughout history one vote has made a significant change.
In 1776 one vote gave America the English language instead of German. In 1845 one vote brought Texas into the Union. In 1923 one vote gave Adolph Hitler leadership of the Nazi Party. In 1941 one vote saved the selective service system just 12 weeks before Pearl Harbor was bombed. What would have happened in 1923 if two other people came to vote against Hitler? Millions of Jewish lives would have been spared. One of the most horrific events in history would have never taken place. It is important that my generation understands that we are that one vote. Involvement in government does not come natural; it must be taught. I propose that government be a required subject for all students in grades 1 through 12. There is no subject more important than how our country works. The process of governing must be understood and each student, from a young age, needs to understand how important he or she is in the democratic system.
Young people can be shown that one voice can make a difference, that one organization can make a huge difference, and that one difference can change the course of history. In addition, every senior in high school should be required to work at either a campaign headquarters or elected official's office for at least one semester. This could be utilized at every level of government, from the city council through the United States senate. Students would learn that the people running the government are not much different than themselves, and that anyone can run for office and be successful in pushing ideas in which they believe. Television and radio should be required to broadcast public service announcements promoting involvement in government service, completely directed to young people. Using popular actors and entertainers, interest in government could be seen as something positive, an area everyone should want to explore. Also, as a cultural medium, the broadcast companies have a responsibility to fight the cynicism so obvious in their news reporters. That is a turnoff for many people who might otherwise want to become involved. They should be more positive and optimistic in reporting about public figures. It is discouraging when you turn on the news to see yet another presidential scandal. Sometimes it seems as if it really doesn't matter who gets into office, because someone will find some type of scandal on them. You will find it only manages to demolish the public opinion of political figures, thus decreasing the interest in our government.
Another step that could be taken to attract the younger generation to the polls is to bypass the polling booth altogether. Let's go online! Voter participation could be increased dramatically by making voting easier and more convenient using computer technology. Voting online should be an option by the next presidential race. If we can order books, foods, and just about anything else from a computer terminal, we should be able to vote. It's the wave of the future and it will appeal to young people. Every effort must be made to reach my generation. We owe a tremendous obligation to those before us who made sacrifices and suffered to provide the liberties we enjoy today. We owe it to them to take interest and be involved in the process of governing. We are a huge voting bloc and with knowledge and forethought we can make a better world for generations coming after us, we can change the world.
SAVANAH J EARNEST
Essay themes: Educating young people about politics, instant run-off voting, proportional voting systems
Some solutions to voting problems involve education and voting
reform. The saying "Knowledge is power" applies to voter participation.
How many young people really know what's going on in our country?
How many of us really know our history and democratic principles?
We may know about our own situations but may not see the big
picture at all. Couldn't this lack of knowledge be solved in
our school systems? Maybe we should be teaching citizenship
skills, current events, and interesting social science classes,
which teach us to think critically, question, debate, and write
about issues. For a democracy to succeed its people need to
think and be educated; otherwise its people can be manipulated.
One major reason keeping young people from voting is that
they are unaware of the processes that occur during registration
and voting. When I am 18 and register--if I did not have parents
who are informed and voting and know the details of registration--I
would be lost on where to go to register and how to register--and
I live in a small rural community where information is easy
As for changes in the electoral system that would increase participation, I am interested in the concept of preference voting, which leads into instant runoff voting (IRV). In preference voting the voter ranks the candidates by who they like the best, the next best, and so on. This process is similar for IRV. Both procedures may attract young people who are already busy attending college, beginning careers, or making other transitions. The simplicity and ease of this procedure may appeal to voters. Instead of making the hard decision of a "yes or no," "right or wrong" answer, many choices and opportunities to make an impact are offered. Rob Richie, the National Director of the Center for Voting and Democracy states, "Northern Ireland used preference voting for a few elections in the 1920's; in the first election, there was an 89% voter turnout and a less than 1% invalid ballot rate...." Similar statistics may arise across the U.S. if preference voting and IRV are implemented. Personally, I could feel more confident about my involvement and my vote than if I am given only one choice or the other. Two or three candidates may be similar in their arguments; if I had to choose only one, I would be discouraged from voting in the election. If I had the option of ranking them, I would be satisfied that even if my first choice did not win, my second choice would have a chance.
Another potential solution to encouraging voter turnout is the proportional representation process. This concept uses multi-member districts. First, the districts are larger and several members would be elected at once. The numbers of members from a particular political party are elected based on the proportion of votes a party receives. The system is gaining in favor around the world, although the idea may be unique for the U.S. This system offers representation for a vote. In the PR system political parties, minorities, and other groups making up the voting population have representation.
Voting reform incentives are one aspect of solving voter non-participation. These solutions need to be carefully thought out. These changes require what the traditional voting methods require: interested, informed, and educated voting citizens. These characteristics begin at the grass roots. Parents, teachers, community members, local political parties all have a responsibility to create voters and define democratic principles to our young people.
Essay themes: Voter registration process, campaign negativity, failure to address issues
Political participation has always been lowest in the young age group of voters. Recently, though, it has begun to plummet even more from its already low statistics.
The United States of America has one of the most difficult and complicated voter registration processes in the world. In order to get people to vote, they first have to register. Systems of automatic registration, like those used in Europe, have been very beneficial to political participation in their society (average voter turnout in the United States is more than 30 percentage points lower than in countries like Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, and Italy). When a person turns 18 years of age, they should be automatically registered to vote. This is the first steppingstone in getting young people to vote. Voter registration places responsibility on voters to take an extra step, which some would rather avoid. There are several states experimenting with different registration requirements, such as election-day registration. This seems to be increasing voter turnout in these states. Registration restrictions are being lessened, but America's polls still lag behind the countries that allow automatic registration.
Once America's youngest generation of voters is registered, the next step is getting them to the polls. A probable solution to this is to bring the polls to them through Internet voting. This idea has been contemplated for some time. If it is possible to file income taxes confidentially and securely on-line, why is Internet voting not yet being done? America's political system has been proven out-dated due to the overwhelming response to the Internet. People are able to buy cars, houses, arrange vacations and do taxes on-line, but they cannot vote via the Internet yet. The Internet is a way of life for most youth and by bringing the political system on-line, their attention can be better captured.
If American feels it is not quite ready for Internet voting, then the polling places should be made more accessible. Instead of requiring people to go to a certain polling facility, we should have open polling. This way people will be able to stop by and vote anywhere they choose.
A small incentive could also prove beneficial. Colleges and Universities could offer small tuition waivers, such as free books, for students with good voting records. For those still in high school, an excused absence for voting might help encourage students to vote.
One reason why today's youth are so uninvolved in politics is because of the negative characterization given off by the media and politicians. John McCain and Bill Bradley are the candidates capturing the young voter's attention this year due to their positive campaigns. When politicians shout at each other and the media constantly shows "dirty politics" the youth tend to tune out.
The youth today are more policy oriented, and they are more interested in public issues. This comes before voting for a particular person. Young people tend to rebel. Even if it is unintentional, when so much focus is put on how they need to be involved, youth turn the other way. By putting so much emphasis on what this generation is not doing, it is discouraging what they are doing and causing them to feel a sense of worthlessness. The Washington Post published an article on February 7, 2000 stating that, "Treating the young as some special interest group is exactly the wrong way to get them interested in politics. Far better that they be challenged (or better still, challenge themselves) to live up to their own social commitments and to reform a system that is not quite working. Pandering to them is a problem, not a solution."
It is very important that the younger Americans become active
in politics. They have to become interested before the will
become active. For the sake of this country's future it is imperative
that political participation increase. There are countless ways
to attempt to ignite the spark in today's youth. First, though,
we have to light the match.