Essay themes: Two-party system discourages voters
JEREMY S. PARKHURST
AMBER L. KOSTOFF
Essay themes: Two-party system discourages voters
With the exception of a few other countries, the United States has the lowest voter turnout in the entire world. In the 1996 election, turnout was just under 50%. The problem of low voter turnout leads to officials being elected that do not represent the population of this country. This concept is one of the basic fundamentals of democracy, and is rapidly disappearing. Reformation of the political party system is the only way turnout can be increased. Political parties in the United States have become a main source of frustration for the American public. One reason for this frustration is that there is no easy way to be able to know exactly what the parties and the political figures who are members of these parties stand for, because there are no set guidelines for them to follow. The fact that the party leaders do not require members to follow pre-determined views on issues is known as a lack of party discipline. This lack of party discipline makes up for a very large amount of the reason why people choose not to vote. This is because one of the main costs of voting is becoming informed, and obviously with a party system where it is so complicated to know who stands where on what issues most voters would rather not bother with it. Another reason for frustration is the fact that parties do take very similar stands on issues, and it is hard to know what the actual differences there are between Democrats and Republicans. This is caused by the two-party system here in the U.S. Because a candidate must get a majority of the vote (51%) they have to take very moderate positions on the issues. Currently it is extremely difficult for a political party besides the Democrats and Republicans, to get on any kind of ballot whatsoever. In countries where there are more than two parties, candidates feelings towards certain issues are more clear and set apart than those of candidates of other parties. There is a perfect example of this concept in British politics.
In Britain there are multiple parties. This enables candidates to be able to win the election with only 25% of the vote, this in turn enables candidates with the freedom to take more liberal or more conservative stands on issues. One also notices that since parties tend to take such different positions, motivation to vote does increase. This can be best summed up in an example of a lottery. Say in Britain there is a lottery worth $4, 000,000.00, and in the U.S. there is one for $20.00. More people will definitely want to participate in the four million lottery, because it would be more worth their time, while in the U.S. nobody would really care about an extra twenty dollars. If there were an ultra-conservative neo-nazi party candidate about to take control of the Presidency, the American public would feel more motivated to stop this candidate from winning the office. Citizens of both the United States and Britain are happy with the status quo. Fear of losing this status quo motivates voting. This is why British voter turnout is so much higher than the U.S. They have much more at stake.
Party discipline also exists in British politics, and this also raises their voter turnout. This is because the campaigns are easier to follow than those that are here. The candidates running have to adhere to certain guidelines specified by the party leader when it comes to how they stand on the issues. This makes it much easier to become informed, one just has to learn what the party stands for, and does not have to worry about all the individual candidates. There are other theories as to why voter turnout is so low, but the lack of party discipline can be mostly to blame for the problem. Nevertheless, there are others who will hold to their own theories. For example, low patriotism in the United States and also, a complicated registration process.
The theory that Americans lack in patriotism was tested in a survey conducted in 1984. The survey compared Britain, Germany, France, and the United States on four different questions. The questions were: Are you proud of your country?, Are you willing to die for your country?, and Are you willing to vote?. The United States scored higher on the first two questions and only scored lower on the willing to vote question. This proves that even a large amount of patriotism can not persuade some people to vote.
There is also the matter of the complicated registration process. This might have been true in the early 1900's, but now there have been several improvements on the registration system making it notably easier for someone to register. An example of this would be the motor-voter bill. This provides that one is able to register to vote just by checking a box while renewing their license registration. Low voter turnout can be explained by the complicated party system that exists in the United States. If a reformation was to occur to restore party discipline, and to make it easier for other parties to be able to get on the ballot, there is an excellent chance that voter turnout would increase.
Essay themes: increased interaction between young adults and candidates, Internet voting
I feel to get this younger generation of adults to vote in the next elections this country needs to come up with some better plans and strategies for the candidates. Some examples would be voting over the Internet. Another one would be having the candidates do more with the young adults on college campuses, maybe even letting the candidates to go out and party with the younger generation just to see what we are really like. Candidates need to be more involved with the youth of America, and less involved with their profile. They need to know how we feel, and spending less time trying looking glamorous and spend more time trying to earn our trust. I feel any of these ideas would get this generation of voters more involved with the elections.
The Internet is a wonderful source of fun and information. Why not put a voting page on it? A page where people can type in their voter registration number, and cast their vote without ever having to leave their house. I know it would be a lot easier, more practical for me, and would give me, and any other young adult in this country, a little more incentive to vote. A voting web page really wouldn't even be that hard to do and or design and run. I feel it would be a easier way to do it than having to take your break from work to go vote. I personally would like to eat during my break. You would be able to vote at your leisure and in your own spare time. Best thing is it would be twenty-four seven, anytime anywhere, well almost anywhere. That is much more convenient. Think about it, how many colleges have Internet access in their libraries or even in the halls? If there was a web page to vote on, it would be so much easier and practical to cast your vote.
I also feel that the candidates need to be more involved with the youth. They need to target our needs and wants. Not the needs and wants of them when they were kids. Problems like the social security money that the country is running out of and taxes (of course). Maybe politicians should actually sit in a conference with a group of kids and ask them questions instead of having all the questions asked of him/her. It would give the candidate first hand knowledge of what we need and want of our country when it's our turn to run it. That day isn't too far away, scary huh. Candidates should also do more touring of college campuses. They should just stay with us and see what we like and want of our country. Most of them are more worried about being nice to little kids and getting their pictures taken with famous people. What about the future famous people of America? They are all sitting in dorm rooms watching it all on TV. Why do all the Politicians want to be seen with babies and very important people anyway? True it gets them more publicity, but personally I want someone in charge of this country that has something to do with the generation most affected by his/her decisions. Our generation is just that. I feel the candidates think that they need to tend to the elderly or kiss a baby just to get the votes, but if a he/she was to go to a college campus and rally all the kids to vote for him/her he/she would be on the winning end. A lot of this country is made up of kids between 18-25. That's also the age group that votes the least. Also from what I can see, that is the age group that the candidates spend the least amount of time trying to win over. This is a big mistake if you ask me.
The bottom line is that politicians need to be involved with the youth, or this country's voter participation is going to go down further. Going to campuses and seeing what the kids want is a good way to do this if they want more votes. Also to get more kids to vote I endorse a voting page on the Internet. It's the wave of the future and the future is upon us. It will save time for thousands of people, and will encourage hundreds of extra voters old and young alike. The candidates need to learn what the kids want with the country. Sit a group of them down, ask them questions, and show us your interested in our opinion on things. It is going to be ours here real soon so don't try to guess what we want. Learn and know what we want. It will benefit the voters, you and the country.
Essay themes: Make Initiative and Referendum easier; get involved in government
In 1933, Al Smith said: "All the ills of democracy can be cured by more democracy." This is the superlative technique to address the crux of youth reticence in the democratic field. I have to the conclusion that the most important thing that a society can do to motivate a young person, or any person for that matter, to get involved in the political process is to get them involved in an issue that they have a real interest in. I propose three ways to do this: reform of initiative and referendum laws; give candidates a reason to appeal to youth; and, encourage youth participation programs.
The best way to do this is to ease the requirements on initiative and referendum certification. In the past year, in my school and state, I have been a participant in the drive to get an initiative to ban concealed weapons in schools and places of worship on the November 2000 ballot. As a member of the Safe Students of Utah, I have been very successful in collecting signatures on the petition to put the initiative on the ballot and, simultaneously, registering them to vote. The media has publicized our cause, including appropriate coverage of our participation. However, we recently encountered substantial opposition from the state legislature. Representative Loraine T. Pace (R-Logan, UT) introduced House Bill 8, titled Election Law Changes. This bill, in its original form, would have removed the right of those under the age of eighteen to collect signatures for a petition. This would not have affected the current petition drive because it would be ex post facto, but the fact that such a provision was specifically designed to stop further attempts of minors to affect the political system. I, as a representative of the Safe Students, to my State Representative, my State Senator (who is the President of the Senate and a fierce gun-control opponent), and two newspapers stating our extreme disdain of the measure. Later, the bill was amended to limit only those over sixteen to collect signatures.
This was a victory for us, but I still felt bad that the government still condoned such a blatantly unconstitutional measure. Meaning, how could they knowingly violate the speech, assembly, and petition clauses of the First Amendment known to protect the rights of youth as well as adults? The amended bill, put through both houses with remarkable and questionable speed, further strengthened the red tape citizens must cut through to attempt an initiative and/or referendum. This is unacceptable. If youth are to get involved, easing the requirements to affect the government outside of the branches is essential. The government should encourage youth to petition, not discourage it by such diversionary tactics. If youth care about an issue and the "representatives" ignore them and forbid them the opportunities to participate, why then are we surprised when they choose anarchy to affect government?
The most major change should be increase availability of candidates to young audiences. The political system in the United States is aimed at the block-voting characteristics of the aged American. It is true that, of the over thirty-one million eligible, forty-five percent voted in the 1996 presidential election, the largest percentage of any age group. They are not, however, the largest voting age group by sheer numbers; that belongs to the 25-44 age group. Nonetheless, political campaigns are directed at the 65 and over age group almost to the exclusion of all else. All of the other commercials I saw in the 1998 election and any previous election to my recollection did not feature any young voice. This is also abhorrent to the democratic nature of the political process. Youth are the least active, but we should remember what the British clergyman Sydney Smith stated: "Minorities are almost always in the right." Candidates for high political office should make it their goal to appeal to young voters and to the youth unable to vote. They talk and talk about how they must make the nation, state, or city a better place for their children to live but do not care to get the input from the children and teenagers who are already living it. In fact, they sometimes ignore it. The government should subsidize advertisements by candidates directed at youth so that they may get involved. It should also put more effort into the mildly successful "Choose or Lose" program by MTV, specifically give tax breaks or fund some of it. If the government would put money or throw support to programs such as this or create its own, I believe that it would have a significant effect.
To answer the second part of the question, my interest in politics stems from my sense of ethics. I believe that I can work through politics and government to help people. It's like President Lyndon Johnson talked about: "I want people programs; I mean real people; P-E-E-P-U-L! I'm talking folks!" I intend to help people by rising to the highest levels of leadership, the penultimate goal being the Presidency. I also feel firmly about the rights guaranteed to me by my Creator. If I do not defend them, I do not deserve them.
I believe that other young people are interested in politics as well because the decisions made today directly affect them. In an op-ed piece entitled "Young people need to vote for their future in '00," Dan K. Thomasson, Scripps Howard News Service writer, outlined the several issues that the young people must face in a decision to vote. He includes: Chief Justice and other Supreme Court nominations, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, education, taxes, defense, and cyberspace. I would also incorporate the issue that confronted those in the 1900 election: America's role in the world. In conclusion, we need to remember the words, but not the means, of President Nixon: "It is time for the great silent majority of Americans to stand up and be counted." The silent majority of youth need to stand up for themselves and be Americans.