Essay themes: More media coverage, more focus on youth issues, internet voting, alternative voting methods
RICHARD D. DIETER III
JESSICA B AITKEN
ELIZABETH A HALLOWELL
Politicians in America: Do You Want to Hear From Us?
We must make changes to the current system in order to incorporate young people into the political process. The media need to support more TV shows addressing political issues, candidates need to spend more time with youth, we need to move toward voting online, and if all else fails, implement a system of proportional representation.
On the local level, there are too many candidates and no way to get to know them. The majority of people never see who is running. Sometimes it seems like it doesn't even matter. My life goes on with low-paying jobs and high college loan debt no matter who's in office. I've seen Democrats and Republicans come and go, and the only thing that changes is the type of scandal in the White House. Strong media coverage and public debate provide the best means to distinguish between candidates. Broadcasting companies should contribute free airtime to every political candidate and hold "town hall" style meetings on every channel from MTV to ABC where TV viewers can call in with questions. Additionally, political candidates should make time to talk to students and should invite students and their parents to participate together in campaign events.
As soon as security issues are overcome, we need to move toward straw polls, primaries, and voting online. When I attended college near Chicago, I had to walk almost a mile to get to the nearest polling place. For many young people, especially those without access to transportation, the polling places are inaccessible. Online voting, then, is the key to harnessing the power of generation X and beyond. Already the Internet has become a useful resource and potent advertising tool for many political candidates. Until online voting becomes available, polling places should be moved to college campuses whenever possible, so that those who are old enough to die for their country will also be given better access to vote for it.
Seeing positive change enacted is empowering. Being personally involved in it is life changing. One of the best times of my life was freshman year in college when I worked for a local political candidate. We ate pizza and discussed his ideas, hung fliers on doorknobs, passed out flags at the polling place, and encouraged people to vote. On Election Day, I woke at six a.m. to vote before heading off to hang fliers. Having a personal stake in the election provided an added incentive to vote, and to care about the outcome. I felt that my vote mattered.
That is truly the crux of the issue. Young people must feel that their views are listened to and respected. In this year's Miss USA pageant, contestants answered questions in press conference style. Yet, instead of focusing on important issues, the "reporters" asked an environmentally active contestant which of these should go on the endangered species list: high heels, g-strings, or bikini waxing? This is insulting to a young person's intelligence, especially one with serious concerns about the environment. By asking trivial questions, the Miss USA pageant sends a clear message to young people, especially young women, that their minds and opinions are not wanted. Partying, sex and leisure activities are all young people are expected to care about.
The messages sent by advertisers and the media almost insist that young people be frivolous, self-focused, and ignorant, i.e., Just spend your money at the mall and the movie theaters and we don't care what else you do. Many young people recycle, participate in youth groups or campus ministries, and are heavily involved in church, community, social and service organizations. We are ready to talk. Is anyone listening?
Politicians need to court the young. The college students and young adults of today will be the business owners and leaders of tomorrow. Because young people aren't taken seriously and their needs are ignored, many students become disillusioned with politics and apathetic in voting.
Young people are the most powerful dormant subculture in today's voting populace. We are the sleeping giants, the unspoken voice. Although hounded by advertisers, politicians ignore us. John McCain is seeking to change that, assuring college students that he will listen to their concerns. He is not advocating ignoring the needs of others; rather, he is suggesting common-sense integration so that all ages are adequately represented. McCain's campaign, if successful, will demonstrate the power of young people and perhaps provide an incentive for other politicians to do likewise.
When it comes down to it, I care. I watch all the presidential and vice presidential debates, listen to the State of the Union, read the paper, and frequently publish letters to the editor about my concerns. Just like me, many young people around this country care desperately about their lives, goals, and future. We need someone to listen, support our issues, and prove to us that America wants to hear from young people
Essay themes: Money and corruptness in campaigns, demonstrate an interest in youth and talk more about issues
Young people today are disenchanted. When we look at our political system, I think that most of them cannot look past the corruption. How can they when the media focuses on who's sleeping with who, or who skimmed money from illegal sources? The number one problem with raising the number of young voters, and all voters in general, is the views they hold on the candidates that are running. They must be shown candidates who want to help the general public, not to fulfill their own private goals.
In an election campaign, the hopefuls with the most money to spend on campaigning are usually the ones that we end up voting on. Some very qualified candidates may, therefore, be left out of the race because they are not wealthy enough, or have enough rich supporters, to finance a successful campaign. Our elections should not be based on who can raise the most money. I feel that the people running for offices today have lost the true purpose of serving in our government, to serve and voice the opinions of the common person. When it comes time to vote, you almost always say, "which candidate is the lesser of two evils"? It shouldn't be that way! If we took the focus off putting up expensive posters, leaflets, and television commercials, we could get more to the issues. The ads candidates put out now are merely slanderous against their opponents. They never address what the candidate hopes to achieve in office. What the public sees is a rich, uncaring person who will do whatever is necessary to achieve their goals.
The issues are what we want to see. One huge reason why people don't vote any more is the fact that they don't know what the candidates stand for, what they're goals and beliefs are. I wouldn't vote for someone that I didn't really know. And in many cases, I don't know any of the candidates' platforms. Mandatory open forums and debates would help the public learn more about who these people are. When President Clinton went on MTV to talk to teens, he did something great. He showed that he understands how important our generation is in the world of politics. Some of the candidates that run seem so out of touch with the people they are hoping to govern. If these people would visit college campuses, set up web sites explaining their ideals, and just spend time getting to know the ordinary people of this country, I think they would see an increase in their numbers during the next election.
If candidates start doing some of the above mentioned actions, voter turn-out will increase. But that still isn't enough. Speaking as a voter, it can be very difficult and frustrating to get to the polls or to find an absentee ballot and know who to vote for. Working people and students cannot always drop what they are doing to drive to their nearest polling place, wait in line, and then vote. If there was a simpler way to do that, voter numbers would soar. The Internet is the key to bringing the voting process into the next century. If you could vote or fill out absentee ballots on-line, there would be a lot less hassle. You could take your time, picking the best possible candidates, in the comfort of your own home. It seems only fitting, since you can do just about anything on the Internet, that you would be able to vote.
So, in this hypothetical world we now have Internet voting, and candidates that are more concerned with their issues and the wants of the public than their own campaign finances. Officials are amazed to see the number of voters rise higher than they have since anyone can remember. Yet they realize that there is still a group of people out there that could easily vote, but they aren't. What is the problem now? They look back throughout the history of our government and notice something. When the president is, let's say a democrat, and the majority of the House and Congress are, let's say republicans, nothing gets done. Normally these two parties want different things. One is liberal, the other conservative. The constant fighting between these two parties leads to more vetoes than bills passing. While this can sometimes be a good thing, for the most part it makes the government look foolish. Like two bickering siblings, there is an awful lot of screaming and punching, and not a lot of useful work gets done. Young potential voters see this on a daily basis through the media. If people think that nothing of use gets done in our government, then why bother voting for it. They think that either candidate would bring about the same no-change, so they don't vote. Our government needs to change in this respect. If the elected president is a democrat, then there needs to be a democratic majority in the House and Congress. That way change will be easier to bring about. This change will be obvious to all the people out there, and they will realize their votes really do matter.
Young people today have set views and beliefs in our government that are not always true, but they shape the way they do or don't vote. It is the responsibility of everyone out there to change these views. Teachers and professors of politics and government classes can only do so much in persuading the minds of their students. Change must take place within the structure of our government before a drastic increase in voter turn-out will occur. It is extremely important that we young people vote, in order to voice our concerns. But until we feel that our opinions will be taken into consideration, the majority of us will not be showing up to vote.
RICHARD D. DIETER III
Essay themes: Encourage youth candidates, reduce partisan nature of elections
As the nation draws forth into the next century, the public finds the United States of America in its most perfect state. In an age of economic prosperity and peace, the United States citizens feel assured that they live in the best of times. However, in this new golden age, another crisis has taken hold in the United States. Year after year, fewer of the nation's younger citizens participate in local and national government, increasing the likelihood that even fewer citizens will participate in the future. It is our duty as American citizens to culminate and determine a solution to combat this ever rising trend.
Formulating new ideas to combat this dilemma and materializing them is the nation's task at hand. For instance, many at one time or another have thought of altering term limits. But, in order to solve a problem, you must create a solution relevant to the problem. Rearranging term limits has no relevance as to why younger voters rarely participate in government. A voter simply does not vote for a candidate because of term limits. In order to gain the favor of voters young and old, the age requirements of elected officials must be reduced. The government must reduce age requirements because of the generation gap between the age requirements of elected officials and America's youngest voters, nearly twenty years. For instance, a candidate with two children and a wife speaking from a parent's point of view, pushing the need for educational reforms, will not be able to connect with a young voter of eighteen or nineteen who has just graduated from school because the voter shares different values from the candidate who is nearly twice his age. The voter has no children of his own, has no spouse, and no longer attends school. Therefore, he loses interest in a candidate who has an agenda that only appeals to a certain section of the population.
By eliminating or reducing the age requirement, younger citizens eager to participate in politics, whether in a minute or grand scale, then have the freedom to organize and campaign for office, and at the same time capture the attention of voters, young and old. Younger voters feel that younger candidates would better represent and respect their values and interests, while at the same time reinforce the values shared by older candidates because of moral conscience and the values of the nation's highly diverse population. This, in turn, would force older candidates to compete harder for the votes of younger Americans because of the power young Americans would carry behind their vote.
The nation may simply resort to a seemingly less stressful solution, such as televising debates between party candidates in the running to become a presidential candidate before the primaries. In order for politicians to attract the attention of young voters, they must expose themselves to these voters more frequently and with greater length then the advertisements they shove in the faces of America's youth. It is not enough for one candidate to advertise another candidate's faults and for only a mere fifteen seconds because it leaves the young voters with no positive information about either candidate. As well, it is not enough to televise a debate between the two candidates a month before the election. These actions do little to remind younger voters how hard the government works to get their input. To capture the attention of these younger voters, more televised debates should be aired throughout the two years during the campaign. This often exposes the young voters to who's running for the office and what the candidates stand for. Even if the voters have busy lives, this serves as a frequent reminder as to how much the candidates are working to get their vote, instilling in the younger voters a sense of power and knowledge that their vote does count.
Often times, when young voters register, they feel the power of their vote is held down because of the voting restrictions that come with their party affiliation. A young independent voter, or a voter who is under a party other than the traditional two parties, may express disinterest in voting if he is restricted from voting for who the final candidates will be, and therefore feels restricted from helping to decide who will win office. By removing these state to state restrictions, this action gives younger voters more freedom with their vote, and freedom of choice is one of the foundations of out nation. As a grander effect, the line that separates the values of Democrats, Republicans, and third parties will vanish, and leave a government without the troublesome partisan politics that tragically limit our government.
The nation may be able to solve this dilemma with one action: eliminate the Electoral College. Americans know that whether they vote or not, the Electoral College will decide for them. The Electoral College does not accurately represent or respect the votes of the nation by handling the voting process in a winner take all manner. This makes voters, particularly young voters, feel powerless. However, by eliminating the Electoral College, the government gives the power of the vote back to the citizens. This will surely encourage citizens to vote. Let us not forget what the Electoral College was meant for, to keep the "ignorant public" from voting. However, with increased changes in technology and communication and effective use of such means, the public has become far different from the bumpkins that occupied this country in the early half of its life when communication was slow and knowledge isolated. The public is now more than able to decide for itself who should be allowed to govern society and create and enforce the laws. Remember, at one point, citizens were not allowed to vote directly for Senators. As the public was ready to vote for senators, are citizens not now ready to decide who their president will be?
This travesty could end with one other alternative, perhaps the simplest one of all: Make voting day a national holiday. Many voters, young and old, feel they just don't have the time to vote, or perhaps voting locations are inaccessible, and therefore do not plan their voting agenda. By making voting day a national holiday, people have twenty four hours to plan where they will vote, how they will get there, and when they will go. A national holiday for the nation's citizens is a good incentive for the weary voters to come out and fulfill their civil duty. This way, they have no excuse not to vote, except for the fact they merely do not like either candidate, for which the solution for this problem has previously been presented in this essay. Honestly, why shouldn't America not drop everything to decide who their political leaders shall be for the upcoming years?
Young voters have long denied themselves participation in government. If the government is deeply concerned about this issue, it will take all necessary options in order to accommodate itself not only to the young voters, but to every voter who feels they have not been given good enough reason to determine the future of their United State of America.
Essay themes: Education, lower the voting age
In my opinion, the primary reason that young people do not loyally participate in their governments elections, is a simple lack of interest in politics. Young people are too caught up in their own trials and tribulations to concern themselves with something as unimportant as voting; or at least that is often times the attitude of this group. An important condition that sparks interest, is a young persons ability to relate to the issues under examination. It's hard for an eighteen or nineteen year old to find interest in a fifty-five year old congressman's opinions concerning social security. This lack of interest is not the result of an oblivious young society, it is a simple matter of ignorance with respect to the issues. Once again using the example of social security; many young people are unaware of the problems our social security system is faced with. They often times do not realize that it is not just a problem for older citizens to be concerned with, but it will affect the whole nation.
The lack of general knowledge concerning the issues that make up the platforms of candidates causes a potential voter to doubt the validity of their opinions. After all, voting ignorantly is worse than not voting at all. This in turn causes the overall voter turnout to remain low. I believe that an increase in the education of young people in the subject of government and politics would stimulate their curiosity. It's much more enjoyable to get involved in something that one is educated abut. This would cause the young population to listen more closely to the issues being discussed and the candidates opinions on such matters. I believe that many of the candidates up for election, talk right over the heads of what should be one of their primary audiences. This problem would be much less apparent if our nations young people were exposed to more government in high school.
A single year ago I know that I personally was quite ignorant on the subjects of government and politics. My current government teacher has sparked a level of interest in me that I never thought could be there. I am now interested in what is happening in government and I realize how important some of the candidates platforms and opinions really are. I gained this new interest at the same time that I gained the knowledge to understand it. I know have the ability to make educated judgments as to which candidate I agree with and when the time comes I may vote responsibly.
The fact that our nation's young people have less than adequate knowledge of their own government is only the first of the problems concerning the lack of voter turnout. Another issue that remains is the fact that this proposed increase in government education comes at a bad time. Many students who study some form of political science in high school gain their knowledge to vote seriously at an age that they can not yet vote. The period between ones peak of political interest and ones eighteenth birthday, causes a sort of disincentive to vote.
A possible solution for this ill-timed motivation, could be a slight lowering in the voting age. If one could vote at the age of seventeen, at the same time that person is being tested in school on the candidates platforms, this voter could formulate honorable opinions and vote with adequate knowledge of the candidates. This type of participation could be a type of extra credit offered by teachers, or even a class trip. I am a believer in the fact that one typically maintains good habits over time. This would extend these young peoples political interest for years to come. While the turnout of young people to vote is the problem at hand, I feel these habits will continue and increase voter turnout of all age groups.
I believe that these few adjustments in our country is current standards concerning voting, would stimulate the interest of young people. In the long run I believe voter turnout will increase dramatically from the current embarrassingly low percentages.
Essay themes: Open third party access, media reform, term
Essay themes: Lower Voting Age, Election Day Holiday, Internet voting, open up process to third parties, clean campaigns
Voting is a very important aspect for Americans. This freedom allows us to choose our own leaders; it distinguishes us as a democracy. Unfortunately, many young people choose not to participate in this freedom for various reasons. Some are disgusted with political parties and some don't know enough about the candidates running for these offices, while others just do not have enough time or are underage. By lowering the voting age and making Election Day a national holiday, the latter two reasons could be eliminated. If the voting age were lowered to sixteen, more young people would have the chance to vote. Sixteen-year-olds are quite capable of making important decisions. At school they have to choose which classes to take, what colleges they are considering, and how to manage their time efficiently between schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Why shouldn't electing someone to represent them in Washington D.C be one of these important choices? By the time many young people turn eighteen, they are on their way to college. They become so busy with their schoolwork and activities in college, that they forget about their obligation to vote. If the voting age were lowered, the gain of sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds would compensate for the loss of the eighteen-year-olds who find themselves too busy to vote.
Yet if Election Day were made a national holiday, college students would be given time to vote. By not having classes or work that day, they would be free to go down to the polls and vote. This would also help older adults who have trouble getting to the polls before or after work. Many adults rush around, trying to get to the polls because work makes it difficult to find time to vote. Some adults find themselves too tired to go to the polls after work, thus neglecting their right to vote. If Election Day was a holiday, they would have time to vote, and wouldn't be too exhausted to do so. Internet voting would also be another solution to this problem. If it were possible to vote over the Internet, many people would be able to find time to vote. They may not have time to run to the polls, but they may have time to get on the Internet for a few minutes in order to vote. Precautions would have to be taken with Internet voting so that only U.S. citizens can vote and that people only vote once, but it would be well worth it. Many college students have access to the Internet as well. It would be a quick and easy way for them to vote while still remaining in their dorm rooms. Also many young people find it difficult to agree entirely with one of the political parties. They don't want to be completely associated with either Republicans or Democrats, because they have different opinions than both parties have. Rather than registering as Independent, they choose not to vote at all. If voting were made easier for Independents and third party voters, more young people would take advantage of it and vote. To aid young people in learning about the candidates for office, debates should be mandatory. If debates were required for all candidates, young people could learn more about the candidates and make a logical choice. They could see what stand each candidate is taking on important issues, and then choose based on this knowledge which candidate they believe is the best qualified for the office. Since debates are not required, many young people have false ideas about these candidates or know nothing about them at all. Debates would definitely help young people make better decisions about voting for candidates.
I believe advertising should also be taken into account when choosing ways to motivate young people to vote. Bad advertising gives politics a bad name. Candidates should focus on themselves, not their opponents. Instead of attacking each other, they should center on the positive aspects. For example, if Candidate A is making an advertisement, he should use the good things that he has done to make it. If he lowered unemployment, then that should be focused on. It shouldn't matter what Candidate B has done, whether that be good or bad; it shouldn't be included in Candidate A's advertisement. Candidate B should make his advertisement in the same manner. Many young people are disgusted at the way candidates seem to only focus on the bad things their opponent has done. They no longer see politics as electing the best person for the job; they see it as electing who has done the least amount of bad things in office. False advertising is even worse. Many times the things candidates say about one another are untrue. None of this should be permitted. If we could show young people that politics is not based on money or attacking other people, more young people who take the initiative to vote. Getting young people to participate in elections is very important to the future. Voting is one of the most precious rights U.S. citizens have, and we should all take advantage of it. Young people are the future of American politics, and we must get them involved. This can be achieved by lowering the voting age, making election day a holiday, making voting available through the Internet, making voting access easier for third parties and Independents, and eliminating bad and false advertising. We should make every effort to make this happen in order to get more young people to vote, and thus ensure the continuation of this freedom of elections.
Essay themes: Partisan nature of politics, Internet voting,
campaign to attract young voters
In my home state, they will not allow you to vote in primaries if you do not declare a party affiliation. This is very detrimental to the voting process in general especially for the younger generations. Most young voters I come in contact with refuse to declare a party. I myself am undeclared. The young do this for many reasons. I decline party affiliation for fundamental reasons. I will not follow a group on all issues, for there'll always be disagreements. People will vote for candidates on the basis of character strength in the end anyway. But the primaries are extremely important in filtering out the best candidates and I believe it is ridiculous to be barred from it. I find that sometimes the candidate I liked the most has not made it through the primaries and it upsets me that I was given no say. I believe this to be very unjust because it strips many of the right to vote in the primaries.
Ease of voting is also a problem for the young. In this ever -changing world, time keeps becoming more and more scarce. Young people are very busy. I am in college and between my classes, homework, job, and out of class activities, it leaves me with almost no time to spare. Many young people are the same way. If I had a dime for every time I heard the phrase "I would have but I didn't have the time..." I could probably pay my way through school.
Perhaps voting online could solve this issue. The Internet is now a commonplace in America. If one does not own a computer with Internet access, they probably have access to one somewhere. Most people go online every day. You come home and always check your mail. If voting online was an option, so many would take advantage of it. The young are also very computer savvy. The young understand that computers are an absolute necessity for success. Since my generation uses computers so much, Internet voting would probably increase voting in this category.
Since ease of voting for the young is such a large problem, the United States could do more to accommodate the young. If voting days were made into holidays, more would probably vote. There would still be things to catch up on in this rush world but there would definitely be time to vote. Most would be able to squeeze voting into their day. If there was no work or class you would also not be too exhausted to vote. I get home normally at 10:30 and am too tired to do anything. I just finish my schoolwork and go to bed. I am not a strange aberration. Many young people I know have the exact same life. A voting holiday would give greater ease to a hard-working youth like myself. I see America as a whole being disillusioned with voting. The young have this ailment the most, I myself have become wary of the voting process.
Most people do not consider voting as important. They register to vote yet hardly ever vote. America needs to find a way to make the public understand that voting really is important to the well being of their country. Yet how to do this is an anomaly. Most young voters think that their vote makes no difference. The elderly seem to control every election. But it needs to be stressed that this will not always be the case. That generation outnumbers all others but it certainly will not be for much longer. I think that the old control voting because they learn that voting really makes a difference. It just appears that they care more. But this is not true. If you can make the young impassioned about the voting system they would certainly want to take part. If there was a widespread campaign to stress the importance of voting, the young would probably be more apt to vote.
The United States of America needs the youth for the future welfare of our lands. Many things must be done so the youth are more inclined to vote. Changing voting laws, greater ease of voting, and being shown the importance of voting could achieve a higher rate of youthful voters. We must not disregard those in their younger years. America can stand idly by and expect them to vote in the future if they are not pursued. The three reforms I have proposed in this essay are what I trust in my heart will work. I did not write this essay for the scholarship for I know that I will most probably not win. I'm a born pessimist I suppose. I wrote this essay because it angers me that nothing is being done to make the young willing to vote. As I mentioned before, I am a registered voter and I know that it is so important to vote. The youth should not vote for any other means other than for the freedom of this wonderful country. They must realize this before this country is hurt by the absence of their voice.
Essay themes: Internet voting, Election Day registration
Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of young people who take enough of an interest in their government to vote in elections. Whether the reason is lack of knowledge, indecisiveness, or just plain lack of interest, something must be done to increase the participation of today's young people. Four changes in our electoral system that would increase political Participation by young people are Internet voting, Election-Day voter registration, classroom instruction about what the candidates believe and stand for, and tax deductions for those who vote.
Internet voting would help because the majority of young people spend a great deal of time on the computer, if they can use familiar means to vote, they are more likely to do so. Often, the reason young people do not vote is because they are afraid of not knowing what to do. They are unfamiliar with the current voting system and do not want to be bothered with taking the time to familiarize themselves with the system. Internet voting would make voting so much simpler for young people. It would also make voting more convenient, because it could be done from within the home. Many times young people do not know where to go to vote, so they don't vote. Busy schedules also keep young people from voting, and Internet voting would save time by eliminating driving time and voter lines. No longer would there be traffic jams at the voting booth and no longer will voters have to pay for gas to go and vote. Just think of how much time Internet voting would save!
Election-day voter registration would also increase participation of young people because they could take care of everything in one easy step. As mentioned before, young people are very busy. One step voting would take less time, and would be simpler. Voters would not have to rely on the postal service to deliver their registration papers; the papers would already be where they need to be. Also, many young people completely forget about the privilege of voting until it's too late. By the time they remember that they should be voting, they have missed the registration deadline. Election-day voter registration would eliminate this problem. It would also enable more people to vote because often young people turn eighteen years old after the registration deadline but before the actual Election Day. Many of these people would like to vote, but they are not able to because of when their birthday falls in relation to the registration deadline. Election-day registration would eliminate this problem as well.
Another way to increase voting among young people is to inform them about what the candidates believe and stand for. Young people are afraid to vote because they do not really know how a certain candidate feels about a certain issue. Since the voter does not want to vote for the wrong person, or a candidate who has a different opinion on a particular issue, they simply do not vote. To eliminate this problem or excuse for not voting, teachers and professors, both on the high school and college levels, should take class time to inform the students on the various candidates stances. This does not mean that the teachers should influence the students in any way, but they should simply give all the available facts from an objective perspective to their students. It is hard for a student to isolate the fact from the fiction among all the mud-slinging in today's campaigns, and often times, while television debates may be helpful to some people, many young people do not have the time to watch them because of their studies. This is certainly the case for a vast majority of college students.
A fourth incentive for voting would be to offer a tax deduction for anyone who votes. Most young people are willing to do just about anything for money. Therefore, taking less money from them in taxes because they have voted would certainly increase interest in young people. Not only would a tax deduction increase voting among young people, but it would also increase participation among older Americans. It would not need to be an exceedingly large sum of money, but most people in today's culture will take all the money they can get their hands on. Often Americans feel that their vote does not count and that they do not get anything out of voting, so giving something to them in return would increase their willingness to vote.
In general, most young people just need better incentives, more awareness, and easier accessibility to increase their interest and participation in voting. The methods in doing this may include Internet voting, Election-Day voter registration, classroom instruction, and tax deduction, but even if none of these changes are implemented, something needs to be done to encourage America's young people to take advantage of their rights and freedoms.
Essay themes: Parents' influence, proportional representation, same day registration
Voter participation has steadily dropped to an embarrassingly low percentage in the United States. For years Americans have become increasingly disinterested in the electoral process. The apathy is continued by the large number of newly eligible voters who choose not to vote. Voting is no longer seen as a desirable and important privilege; rather it has become a never-ending chore. People tend to believe it does not matter whether or not they vote. As the situation worsens, it becomes necessary to examine the causes and solutions to laissez-faire style elections.
Political scientists agree that the political ideology of parents strongly influences their children. Therefore; it is logical to assume that young voters have also learned their political apathy from their parents. The older voters, who have become tired of the endless elections and disillusioned with the government and its leaders, have taught teenagers that voting can be taken for granted and ignored. Adults need to relearn the importance of voting before teens can be expected to do so as well. The first possible solution is to lessen the large number of elections. Only holding elections every two years would stop the thinking that elections are routine events. Also, increasing the term lengths of House Representatives would allow voters to get to know their Congressman and would put more weight in their voting for him, realizing he will be around for a long time. The importance of voting and its consequences would be stressed by the lasting results and infrequency of elections.
Proportional representation would also give voters a healthier sense of civic duty, by allowing people to choose the candidate they truly like, without fear of "wasting" their vote on a minor party candidate. This would also help unconventional candidates that appeal to a younger demographic get elected. New, appealing candidates, such as Jesse Ventura, entice a usually reluctant voter to the polls. Ventura won because he attracted young voters, and they actually came out to vote for him. The easiest way to reach the largest number of voters is to begin Internet voting. Allowing citizens to vote from their own homes would probably increase turnout, but it may sacrifice safeguards against voting fraud. Personal information could be stolen from registration lists, and ballot boxes could be "stuffed" by hackers, both situations would make citizens hesitant to participate.
A more conventional way to promote voting convenience would be to allow same day registration, which has proved mildly successful in several states. Once voting has become more accessible to the average person, and parents have rediscovered and introduced their children to the necessity of voting, the need for accessible candidates still exists. Rather than increasing the number of televised debates, that people find uninteresting and too lengthy, the franking privilege should be extended to all candidates, not simply the incumbents. Direct mailings would help new candidates increase their name recognition and allow their views to be made public with greater ease, and without the time required by watching debates. It would also slightly chip away at the large advantages possessed by incumbents in elections. Increasing the participation of younger voters is extremely important to the American system of government as it currently exists. As young, nonvoting citizens mature, they become older nonvoting citizens, passing this ideology to their children. Eventually, voting will simply lose importance and effectiveness as people continue to ignore it. This leaves the government free to be controlled by manipulative and power starved leaders. Realistically, the country could be taken over by a dictator; he rose to power without consent, and since voting has been abolished, he cannot be removed. Even if that situation is a little drastic, people will keep losing interest in their government as they lose it in voting. Incumbents will settle into office for the rest of their lives, and fewer and fewer candidates will be interested in attempting to take their places. Term limits are superfluous if Americans vote undesirable officials out of office.
Keeping with the philosophy of the Founding Fathers, people, not being angels, cannot competently govern themselves en masse. The current system of government must be preserved to ensure adequate leadership. Everyone is affected daily by the government, through taxes, traffic laws, et cetera. Without an increase in the voting of younger people, the political ideology of this county will continue to decline, until nothing written in the Constitution remains. America is based on the participation of concerned citizens. Apathetic citizens have no place in the electoral process. As a student of political science, it is disturbing to imagine losing the fascinating and successful system that already exists. How can the next generation be taken seriously if it refuses to take its voting responsibility seriously Without young voters the country is destined to be ruled by older men, completely out of touch with the needs and interests of young America, a thought strikingly similar to that of a demagogue.
JESSICA B AITKEN
Essay themes: Loss of faith in politicians, making registration simpler, making voting easier: Internet voting
Americans have lost their faith in politicians. Since the day the media began broadcasting presidents' lack of ethics, the public has realized their leaders are not infallible supermen. Americans were presented with the fact that presidents do not always make the correct choices in life, and they concluded that these powerful men are not competent leaders. With this drastic supposition, voting numbers dropped and the public became apathetic towards their government. Americans began to consider all politicians untrustworthy, and reasoned that it would not matter for which candidate they voted because none could truly be trusted. They lost sight of any feasible reason to make the effort to voice their opinion.
The only means to reviving America's faith in politicians would involve the election of a hero - an honorable person without faults who exudes intellect, charisma, and upstanding morals. Fortunately, raising voting numbers is a far easier task to attempt. By simplifying the process of voting registration and by making voting accessible through the Internet, excuses to not vote will be limited. Therefore, if a potential voter has even the slightest preference for a certain candidate, he may be more inclined to voice his opinion if the opportunity is easily attained. Simply by making these minor changes in the voting process, voting numbers would increase and Americans would take a greater interest in the election of their leaders.
ELIZABETH A HALLOWELL
Essay themes: Make young people a part of the process by educating them on politics and voting and focusing on youth-oriented issues and campaigning
Rebellion: the defining characteristic of youth. In their attitudes, habits, dress, mannerisms, hobbies, and life styles, young people go to new heights with each generation in an attempt to separate themselves from their parents, all because parents have, collectively, committed the ultimate sin: they are not cool. I am bound by a sacred oath taken by all people under the age of 21 not to explain why parents are not cool, or even what it means to be cool, but I can assure you that by every definition of the word, parents are not cool. Moreover, they're attitudes, habits, dress, etc., are also guilty by association; "whatever your parents do," reads the Teenagers' Oath, "so are you forbidden from doing, for it is uncool." This mentality, unfortunately, extends to voting and, more generally, to political participation.
Voting is something that parents and grandparents do; it is something for old people, rich people, and old rich people. A young person has very little reason to vote. The evening news portrays a set of gray-haired, malicious candidates saturated with special interest money; civic responsibility is a value that is rarely taught in school, elections are held in November when it's cold, the hunched-back octogenarians with walkers take absolutely forever to pull the lever, and so on. The candidates appeal to the AARP members, the Great Centrist Suburbanites of the Silent Majority, the businessmen and special interest groups that pay their bills, and, in the 2000 election, every minority with every skin tone ever born anywhere, before they market themselves to young people. As a target audience, young voters are at the bottom of the list because they do not vote. Unfortunately, they don't vote largely because they are at the bottom of the candidates' priority lists, and everyone knows it.
This is the Catch-22 that both helps America and hurts it: to be heard, a group must vote, but the only groups with the motivation to vote are the ones that feel they are being heard by their elected officials. As with most political issues in a democratic society, change depends on the people, regardless of age. Teaching civic responsibility in schools is perhaps one of the easiest ways to encourage political participation. Civics and Government classes in public high schools should be encouraged to include, as part of their curricula, voting lessons; students should be taught, for example, how to register to vote, where to go in their communities to vote, who the candidates in a given election are and what their platforms contain, how to contact local politicians for information, and how to get involved in the political process. Teachers, the primary role models for many young people, should be encouraged to lead by example and participate in politics; one of the most inspiring teachers I have ever had, the teacher whom I credit for my love of politics, has held a series of elected local offices and was famous for taking a day off from school every other year to monitor local elections. Likewise, candidates and politicians should be encouraged to visit schools to speak not only about themselves and their platforms, but specifically about issues that concern young people.
Two years ago, Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter, the two senators from Pennsylvania, visited the high school that I attend and spoke to various groups of students. Santorum spent hours babbling about how Congress should cut spending on education while increasing spending on Social Security and Medicare; Specter, on the other hand, talked about a variety of interesting topics, such as abortion, Affirmative Action, campaign finance reform, big tobacco, and race relations. Although there may have been a few high school students who were interested in Santorum's Social Security and Medicare plans, declaring to a group of public high school students that educational spending must be cut was a clearly a faux pas of the highest degree. Specter's versatility, variety, and interest in our interests, however, were as engaging as Santorum's heresies were disappointing.
Eventually, regardless of the measures taken by any of the parties involved, increasing the political participation and voter turnout of young people will require a risk from at least one group. Either young people will have to, en masse, reach out and vote with the hope that their concerns will subsequently be heard, or candidates for political office will have to, en masse, devote a portion of their time and resources to the concerns of young people with the hope that they will garner enough young votes to make their efforts worthwhile. Mass risk is perhaps the solution to the problem of the young vote least likely to occur, but it is certainly the one with the highest probability of success. An increase in the young vote means a proportional increase in the young voice, which in turn means that greater consideration will be given to the crucial issues that are of particular interest to young people, such as educational spending and reform, changes in the minimum wage laws, alcohol and tobacco issues, and race relations.
A stronger voice and a greater emphasis on the issues that concern young people will subsequently lead to a general increase of faith in the American government, increased political participation by young people throughout their lives, and countless as yet unborn generations of children who, although wary of the "uncoolness" of their parents and their parents' politics, will at least feel that the candidates care about them and are willing to listen to them without discriminating against them because of their age. After all, at the end of the tally sheet, young votes are worth just as much as old votes, and perhaps even more, as the young voters who cast the young votes will be around much longer and have many more elections to vote in than older voters.
Essay themes: Information and the ability to vote more quickly in order to hold the attention of youth
Why is political participation by young people plummeting? Without knowing this answer, a myriad of solutions could be suggested and tried. My opinion would be the apparent slowness of the political system is the greatest single cause. We currently live in an impatient society. We wanted it signed, sealed and delivered yesterday. This is especially apparent with the advent of all the electronic media available to my peers. It is almost as if we know what happened before the event even occurred. Compared to the ability to "point and click" around the world in 80 seconds, the enactment of change within the political system is akin to watching a glacier slide down the mountain.
Participation is plummeting because we, as a generation, are bored with the current political system. It's just too slow. Contrary to popular belief, youth are capable of making decisions, however we are being trained to make them instantly, such as deciding which web page to visit next. This instant information type of venue is becoming an increasingly large part of our lives. This is the format necessary to hold the attention spans of those raised in this intensive electronic environment. Cut the flowery discussions and tell me what happened, why, when and where. Politicians must grasp this concept and change the method to which they receive and act upon feedback from their constituents. They must become experienced drivers on the information highway, respond to their constituent's feedback in a speedier fashion or become road kill and fodder for the vultures. This will require the same slick and subtle advertising used on the Internet and more recently during the Super Bowl. These same advertisers are being paid big money to sell products to these same youth. Why shouldn't the political machine use these same methods to engage the participation of youth?
In this respect, the first political reform needs to be a faster and more direct communication link with our representatives. Constituent surveys could be posted on the World Wide Web for individual voters to read, evaluate and respond to. The transmitted answers could be quickly tabulated providing valuable instantaneous information for our representatives. They could then cast their votes on the current issues knowing they are truly representing their respective political areas. These instantaneous results of both the constituent surveys and the particular vote of the representative on the same issue would then be posted for the youthful "web surfer" to evaluate. This would spark the interest in our youth and get them involved in the political system. Youthful voters could effect change in a more timely fashion and feel the are contributing to the political process.
The utilization of other aspects of the World Wide Web could prove invaluable during the election process. Electronic "chat room" debates could be initiated between candidates. This could be structured as completely open with pertinent and informative questions fired from all participants or simply a challenging banter back and forth between the electronic debaters utilizing the typed media. All surfers would then be in a better position to evaluate each candidate and cast a more informative vote. This process could happen at all times during the day and night in an effort to catch all levels of the voting population. What a concept! Meeting and challenging today's information intensive youth in their own playground and forum. Not only would they feel the political system is coming to meet them, they will want to participate more fully. Instead of asking each other in class the next day if they "punched the monkey" or knew the answer to win the million dollar round, they would be enthusiastically recanting the representatives responses in the chat room concerning questions they had posed about political policies. This would indeed spark an "information change and revolution" for our youth in the current political system.
Essay themes: Faster voting methods, untrustworthy candidates, more exposure to issues and candidates
Timmy's soccer practice, Melanie's ballet lesson, taxes, in-laws, computers, retirement, investments, groceries, the attic, the basement, the paint, .... With everything American citizens are doing today, it isn't surprising that many routinely overlook one privilege of citizenry: the right to vote.
Just how bad is voter participation? Well, a survey completed by the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance discovered that out of 131 democracies, the United States ranks 103rd in voter turnout in national elections. More embarrassing, however, is the degree by which the U.S. lags behind other countries - in their respective 1996 elections, 88% of citizens able to vote in Iceland did, 87% of those in Italy did, and 84% of those in Greece voted. Turnout in the United States for two years earlier was a meager 38%. Most elections are won by a much slimmer percentage.
Worse still, such disgracefully low numbers are not limited to national elections - political elections closer to home fare even worse. Twenty-seven states had turnout rates significantly lower than 38% in 1999 House elections, with the lowest being Louisiana at 9.85%.
There are many factors leading to low voter turnout, but perhaps one of the farthest-reaching is the American public's general lack of time. Americans simply don't have time to vote. There are always a million places to go and things that need to be done very soon, right now, or two days ago. Additionally, many people work on Election Day - fire fighters, police officers, emergency room technicians, etc. - and simply cannot take leave from work. To illustrate America's time crunch, one study performed by the Census Bureau in 1998 found that of all registered citizens who were non-voters in the 1996 election, 21.5% failed to vote "because they could not take off from work or school or because they were too busy." With time acting as such a large constraint, making a short trip to an election center quickly becomes a daunting task, making lack of time so all-encompassing that it threatens to crush democracy itself.
What can we do to counteract such a crushing force? We need to make it easier to vote to encourage greater voter participation. First of all, standardizing simplified and easily accessible mail-in voting forms would be a wise first step. This would help those who know in advance they will not be able to get to a voting center on Election Day, but we also need to address the needs of those for whom unexpected circumstances keep them from getting to a center. For instance, phone-in votes would provide election access to almost all who cannot leave their locations. On that note, voting over the Internet or an e-mail system would further stimulate citizens to vote.
Lack of time is not the only issue at work, however. Even more powerful than the thundering roar of the clock is the overall view of politics in general. The air in Washington is changing. In a country where political scandal after scandal have recently come to light - from Watergate to Lewinsky - the American public is quietly yet quickly losing faith in politics. Their apathy towards voting amounts to nothing short of a silent boycott of a product they feel they can no longer trust.
Many citizens, furthermore, find it difficult to relate to the politicians they do find trustworthy. A large number of Americans find politicians cold, distant, and impersonal, not someone who really cares about them. These Americans do not feel respected, so they do not feel they owe candidates the respect of voting. Vicious campaign attacks do not help politicians' positions. To correct this problem would signal a massive shift in politics. In addition to reforming the Electoral College to get candidates back in touch with the people, politicians would need to find a personal way to connect with Americans, to regain their trust and faith. They would need to learn to speak more to the public - not merely about foreign policy or budget cuts, but emphasizing the issues that ring true to every American - their lives, their futures. Furthermore, Thomas Edsell, political commentator, noted in 1984 that U.S. political generally fail to portray "the interests of the bottom three-fifths of society." Only by addressing this deficit, by "opening up" to the public, can we lead these people to vote. To further help, communication lines should be thrust wider open - have more debates, radio talks, and TV shows. Political candidates would need to learn the way to initiate a cycle of respect with the voter so strong it cannot be broken. Only by feeling secure in placing their votes in a trusted leader can we persuade Americans to vote. Voting is a not only a right but a privilege, a chance to be heard. We need to do everything we can to allow all Americans to have a voice.