High school student
Essay themes: Internet voting; required debates; same-day voter registration
TIMOTHY A. WORK
LEVITA Y. ROBINSON
Essay themes: Internet voting; required debates; same-day voter registration
Political participation is plummeting. Changes such as Internet voting, required debates between all candidates, and election-day voter registration, can all help voter turnout for young voters.
Internet voting would probably make the biggest impact in voter turnout, however, keeping the Internet median secure and protected seems unlikely, or at least risky. The amount of people hooked on the Internet has and is increased tremendously. Young voters, as well as adults, can easily, with the click of a mouse, open up an extra web browser, vote, and get back to what they were doing in no time at all. My only concern is if they will put some thought into their decisions. We would all like to think it was true, but the fact is, voting with this ease may not end in he election of the best candidate. On the other hand, most people who vote, have enough knowledge to make an educated decision based on their personal needs.
This leads right into required debates between all candidates. It's simple the smartest and most democratic thing to do. Every candidate gets a fair shot, and all voters see the same speech, and learn about the candidates beliefs and propositions. There is no downside to this, except for the extremely rich and popular candidates. If all candidates receive a fair share of media exposure, election will be fair, accurate, and "democratic."
Election Day voter registration will give everyone a chance to vote, in case, for any reason, they had not registered. By not offering election-day registration, we are turning away young voters who may have not been enlightened about the value of voting, but as Election Day draws nearer, they realize how important it actually is. Other voters who are unable to register, again for any reason, and may want to vote, can be discouraged by having to register in a longer process. However, I also have a personal concern on this issue, similar to Internet voting. The service of election-day registration may cause a great lax on those who would normally register on time, thus creating an enormous group of citizens that need to register on Election Day. And for some, getting lax on registering may cause an outcome of, in the end, just not voting.
So it seems clear that many changes to encourage young voters can lead to two separate conclusions, even though we may not like to think of the negative effects. Thus, to me, it turns out that education of the importance of voting is the single greatest factor in positive voter turnout, and equal candidate media coverage will support that cause very well.
Essay themes: Same-day registration; more personal involvement by candidates and parties; more education
My mother is 49 years old. I can't tell you the last time I remember her voting. She is not alone either. The number of people, who are supposed to be our role models, who are not voting is frighteningly large. These people are responsible for not installing the sense of responsibility and importance of voting to our nations youth. It is for this reason that the number of young people participating in politics is dropping. Therefore I suggest starting right here to correct the problem. Other ways to raise political participation would be to make the expression of ideas and opinions heard easier and to aid registration by offering the opportunity to register on election day. Installing responsibility and making it easier to vote will increase participation.
First we must start with the adults that we look to as models. Political parties must go out into the community, meet the people and listen to what they have to say. The importance of actively participating in the electoral system must be reiterated. Political functions held in neighborhoods, at schools, where everyday people are will increase the sense of actually being somebody important. By increasing unity and making people feel comfortable and important I believe our young population will be influenced.
Do you have something to say about the events around you? Sometimes feeling like you can express your ideas and concerns can feel awkward and uncomfortable. That is when politicians must come out into the community and meet their constituents. They should offer question and answer sessions with younger Americans especially. Make appearances at regular small town meeting places. By approaching this countries citizens on the level at which they live a connection between voter and candidate will be established. This vital connection will cause younger people to wish to be involved. When you know you have influence then you want to be involved. The simple solution therefore is to go to the people and listen to what they have to say.
Registering to vote is something that slips the mind of many people. It is especially difficult for young Americans that are so incredibly busy. By offering voting day registration it will eliminate the hassle of pre-registration and will offer an out for those who simply did not have the time. Of course it may make things take a little longer, but in the end the benefits will be rewarding. Making it easier to vote will get people involved.
People will vote when they think it is to their benefit. Therefore we must educate them on the role they play in how they are represented and governed. When people find it easy to vote they will be more likely to vote. The, it is the responsibility of the government to help aid this process. Candidates should go out into the public and registering must be easier. By practicing these simple suggestions our country will become better unified.
Essay themes: Make absentee ballots more accessible; allow citizen questions to candidates through the Internet
Hardly any of my friends actually vote. Of course they get a kick out of websites such as "President Match" (http://www.presidentmatch.com) and other political "matchmakers," but few of them do anything with this knowledge. I, however, feel that it is imperative that students voice their opinions in politics. Young voices make up the future of America, and we need to express our opinions and have a say in our government to affect our future. One tool that I would use to increase the popularity of youth voting is allowing absentee ballots to be obtained quickly - preferably within a day - and cut the red tape in obtaining them. Many college students attend schools far from their homes, and are unable to vote even if they wish to because they have nowhere to do so. Absentee ballots are a great idea; however, they are often not worth the time and effort it takes to obtain them. Also, until elections are imminent, most people do not focus on them and realize the need to apply for these ballots. By making them more accessible for college students, we could certainly increase the number of college students who bother to place their vote in elections. Similarly, a program could be established in which voters could either vote from the state they were currently in electronically, giving simply their social security number to prevent multiple voting and allow felons and non-citizens to be automatically filtered out. This would be a relatively simple system, and would again save time and hassle for many voters. Also, not having to wait in excessive lines to fill out paper ballots would save much time, aggravation, and even money, as fewer employees would be required for in-person voting, and more paper would be saved. Televised debates that were somehow made more interesting - perhaps by showing them on more popular channels, and even putting them in more obscure time slots where other popular shows would not be airing - would certainly raise interest among young voters. The debates are a fascinating premise; however, the steadiness of the camera, dull mediation and lack of intractability leave some young viewers in the cold. Another idea for making these debates interesting is allowing viewers to submit their own questions, perhaps through the Internet. These questions could easily be mediated, and would bring more interest to viewers by giving them a chance to put a word in. Finally, election-day registration would certainly help many voters, who decide at the last minute to cast their vote, a greater chance to express their political opinions. As stated before, many people simply do not focus on the elections until they are upon us. By allowing these citizens a chance to register and vote at the same time, we could give a greater opportunity to those who were unable to register beforehand, whether out of lack of thought, time, or simply motivation. Again, computerized systems could easily filter these entries by social security number. Youth interest in politics severely needs rejuvenation. However, with the initiation of a few simple programs, a great increase in the voting contingent of young Americans could easily be obtained. This increase is critical for the future of our country, and we must do all we can to facilitate the expression of young opinions in our government.
Essay themes: Support for proportional representation; representative government
That ballot you're casting... lemme tell you something: it's the equivalent of the toy steering wheel you put in the back seat of your car for your kids," one disillusioned American citizen proclaims on his website. While Americans generally do not view the vote as completely ineffectual, the majority of them, especially the younger generation, are not sufficiently impressed by its power to compel them to actually vote. The discouragingly low voter turnout rates in America are a symptom of the failure of our bipartisan system to provide voters with candidates who truly represent their individual and widely varying interests. If a representative democracy is our true goal, it is absurd to expect that a system, which permits only two factions to vie for power, could satisfactorily represent our diverse electorate. Only a system of proportional representation with multiple parties has the flexibility to accommodate American democracy and give efficacy to our enormous voting population.
Washington Post writer E.J. Dionne writes, "If free elections leave so many in the electorate dissatisfied with where they have to stand and push large numbers out of the electorate entirely, then it is fair to conclude that the political process is badly defective." The U.S. has the lowest voter turnout of all twenty-two Western democracies (less than fifty percent of registered voters).
The eighteen of those democracies that have proportional representation systems enjoy voter turnout rates up to forty-five percent greater than ours. Proportional representation entails that the number of governmental positions held by a particular party be proportionate to the percentage of the electorate that voted for that party. For example, if the Green Party gets twenty percent of the popular vote, it would hold twenty percent of governmental offices. Many Americans pass up their chance to vote simply because neither of the two major parties appeals to them. With so many more parties to choose from, citizens of countries using proportional representation can vote for representatives with whom they strongly agree and, what's more, they are represented in government, regardless of whether not they agree with the majority. Returning to the example of the Green Party, supporters of that party would be much more likely to go the polls if they had the chance to control twenty percent of governmental power. Twenty percent of the voting population is a massive amount of people, but a bipartisan system does not afford even such a large group a voice. Young people represent an enormous portion of the population, but many feel powerless to affect on elections in the face of a majority of older and more affluent and politically confident voters.
The bipartisan system suppresses not only extremist views, but also every other opinion that does not coincide exactly with that moderate point of view. With only two contending parties, the current system is "winner-takes-all," and so the two competing parties focus all of their energies on accommodating the "middle-of-road" voter, because the greatest number of voters can be satisfied by this very moderate political strategy. Duke University professor John Aldrich points out: "With few exceptions, the distinctions between the two major parties are tendencies, not certainties, and differing values are typically matters of emphasis rather than fundamental disagreements." When President Bush supported legislation, which would grant China most favored nation trading status, the Democrats vehemently rejected the idea, pointing dramatically to China's poor human rights record. When Clinton introduced the possibility of extending the same m.f.n. status to China, the Democrats approved while the Republicans screamed about the human rights issue. Dr. Steven Medvic, professor of political science at Old Dominion University, describes the phenomenon as a "false dichotomy" between the parties, and the petty quarreling and mudslinging that result from it are a constant hindrance to the smooth workings of government. Proportional representation system would eradicate this "winner-take-all" mentality, and the false conflicts between parties would evaporate, to be replaced by genuine ones.
In Federalist Paper no. 10, Madison writes: "As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed." He goes on to say "the protection of these is the first object of government." But, as Douglas Amy, professor of politics at Mount Holyoke, notes, "Even when discernible differences between the Democrats and Republicans exist, those two choices hardly exhaust the political alternatives. While most other democracies offer voters a wide variety of parties and ideological alternatives, our two party system severely constrains our choices." The greatest advantage of proportional representation is that so many more political perspectives are given a voice in government. This innovative electoral system could expand our government into a model of America's full spectrum of political beliefs. Isn't that the ultimate purpose and validation of a democratic government: one that is given the right to make and enforce our laws because it is a true representative of public sentiments. It goes all the way back to John Locke, arguably the greatest influence on our founding fathers, who founded his philosophies of government on the idea of leaders governing with consent of the governed. If young people felt they had a real opportunity to speak out in the political arena and be heard, to generate change where they see the aching need for it, I am confident that many would take advantage of it.
Despite the security Americans finds in our historically two party political structure, the current system fails in all of its purposes, especially that of producing a government that faithfully represents the opinions of the American public. With a system of proportional representation we could achieve a body of elected officials which far more accurately reflects the diversity public opinion, and, by giving all opinions a voice, we could infinitely increase Americans' sense of efficacy. I would hope that we love our democracy enough to be willing to undergo potentially disruptive changes in our electoral system in order to profoundly improve the effectiveness and vitality of that democracy
Essay themes: How government does not impact the average young
person; the influence of the media; why apathy is acceptable
Secondly, even when one person does speak (save those with national media coverage) does anything happen? After the last gubernatorial election, I myself (a seventeen year old in Virginia) felt no Earth-shattering changes in my life. Life went on as usual, and the status quo was maintained. Gilmore (the winner of that election) won on the platform of "no more car tax" I paid no car tax to begin with. Any issue that the candidates argue over has no real effect on me. They may cut education funding, but our legislature would disallow such drastic cuts that my state's students would come to a dismal level in the nation's standards. A candidate may win because he or she is "tough on crime," other than on a purely philosophical and moral level, that does not matter to me. Crime does not affect me much at all. The only time I would become stirred up and perhaps write a letter would be if the governmental system created a policy to which I were deeply opposed on a moral level and affected by, such as the state paving a highway through my front yard.
Whenever an adult complains about the apathy of American children today, I shake my head and think "because nothing that the government does to us affects us as of right now." Perhaps some time in the future, I might say to myself "When I was seventeen, why didn't I protest that tax that is sapping 15% of my yearly income?" More likely I'll pay the tax like a good little drone and go on with my life. I do not care about every detail that goes on in Washington or Richmond because it does not change my life that I can see. Perhaps these things are changing my life for the worse, but I am not well informed about them. I might be completely opposed to a bill passing through my nation's legislative process right now, but no one tells me about it, or is it because I do not listen? If I truly wanted to, I could watch C-SPAN during my free time, read the politics & government section of my newspaper, and listen to "All Things Considered" while I'm driving to and from school, but as a teenager, I'd much rather spend that time playing video games, surfing the internet, hanging out with my friends, and being a kid while a still have the blood pressure for it. These things motivate me. Entertainment motivates me. Come to think of it, these same things also motivate adults, but in different forms. Also, I notice that adults are apathetic towards politics in the same regard as kids are.
There are some political elites in the "adult" community and political elites in the "young adult" community. Adults can lead parties. Kids can lead clubs at school. Some adults choose just to go to work and have fun the rest of the time. Some kids choose just to go to class (and some to work) and have fun the rest of the time. When asking how to increase political participation among young adults, one answers the same question of how to increase political participation among adults. The answer is to make it more important than anything else. In society, people are more interested in finding out who wants to be a millionaire or what happens when animals attack (episodes I-XII) than what happens in their nation's capital. If media became a more effective device for transferring the actions of Capitol Hill to the ears in America's living rooms, people might just stand up and say "doggone it, I'm gonna do something about that." granted, some other will stand up and say "I'm going for more pizza, y'all want any?" but the point is that politics must hit the home and the people must feel inclined to do something about the issues that they are informed of.
There is one problem, however, and that is: does America want it? Most people I know would much rather see an episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond" than an episode of "Everybody Loves Trent Lott." America has settled into a comfortable equilibrium for the most part. There are those citizens who, now and again, will protest their lot in life or write a letter to the editor about how the nation has gone to hell in a hand basket, but most Americans (when I say Americans I mean the people I interact with in my microcosm of existence, which is sufficiently diverse, in my opinion) are sated. When Jimmy Carter gave his famous "malaise sweeping over the nation" speech, he was half-right and half-wrong. It is true that political activity on a whole had been low. On the other hand, malaise has a negative connotation, but American political inactivity is not necessarily a bad thing. It is a natural thing. In nature, things are constantly trying to reach equilibrium. When an outside factor disrupts the balance, certain changes occur to restore the environment to its preconceived order. The American political nature has shown a punctuated equilibrium, that is, radical shifts that occur a few times in a century, but when things settle down, people are satisfied and do not want to concern themselves with complex issues that they can simply leave to those who are more immersed in that particular subject. Is political participation by young people as a whole so important that we want to spoil their fun and make them get involved in serious issues when they evidently don't feel it necessary? The elite will govern, and the rest will sit by and go on with their own lives. The elite, ironically, are not the masters in this situation; they are the servants to the apathetic will.
Essay themes: Election-day voter registration; voting on the Internet; increased accessible education about voting and its importance
In the last presidential election of November 5th 1996, 95.8 million voters showed up at the polls, however in the presidential election prior to 1996 (in 1992) there was a greater voter turnout, with a difference of 8 million voters. Among the voters that did show up only 64.89 percent of the adults from the ages 18 - 25 came out to vote Compared to the percent of total US voters, the younger voters represented 7.62 percent in the 1996 election a 9.16 percent in the 1992 election. This evident decline in younger voter turnout has encouraged presidential candidates to devise new campaign strategies, in order to increase the voter turnout among the younger voting age population. Nonetheless, as illustrated in the voter turnout statistics of federal elections (http://www.fec.gov/pages/electpg.htm), candidates and their teams have not been very successful.
One of the main reasons contributing to why younger voters are not present at the polls, is due to the fact that many young voters (esp. those who do not pursue a further education after high school) are simply ignorant of the importance of voting, yet alone the purpose. The intent of the whole voting process is to attain equal and justifiable representation in the government. Voting should be viewed as a privilege and civic duty to be exercised. Unfortunately many of our young voters do not feel this way. Some young voters do not turn out at the polls, because they think that their vote will be futile, and thus registering to vote and participating in the election is a waste of time. The negative is the exact reason why many politicians and congressmen tend to overlook the concerns of the younger voting population, simply because they are not well represented in the election turnouts.
Yet, instead of explaining the reasons why young voters don't come out to the polls, it is up to the government to devise reforms to help encourage and increase voter participation among the young voting age population. There are three reforms that if enacted could possibly result in a greater increase of participation from young adult voters. These three reforms are election-day voter registration, Internet voting, and increased public awareness about the importance of voting.
The American people are a people of convenience, thus if things are made more convenient, people are more likely to respond. Many of the reasons as to why so few voters show up to the polls, is because many of them forget to register. This is true of the younger voting age population, in which a sizable amount is enrolled in higher levels of education (including college and graduate school). Remembering to register is a task that is often times put on the back burner, due to the pressures of completing assignments, studying for tests, etc. Thus, it would be convenient for those individuals of the younger voting age population to have an extended registration date, possibly on the same day of the election. How much more convenient could one get? By adopting this policy, you are killing two birds with one stone.
Now that we are in the new millennium, society's usage of computers has skyrocketed, along with Americans' usage of the Internet. Studies performed by the Worldwide Election Systems (http://www.internetvoting.com) show that 66 percent of all Americans would likely vote via Internet. A statistic given on May 17th, 1999 from a study conducted by Mediamark Research, concluded that 64.2 million adults (18+) are online in the U.S at least once a month, and 83.7 million adults have Internet access. These figures are a 20 percent jump from the previous statistic conducted a year earlier (http://www.emarketer.com/estats/051799_642mil.html). Among these adult individuals whose use the Internet, a sizable portion of the users are those who also make up the young voting age population. Due to the fact that younger adults are more likely to use the internet than their older counterparts, consequentially these adults would benefit from the convenience of having Internet-voting available to them. Previous debates about online security have hampered the government's approval of Internet-voting. Yet, on the contrary, Internet voting using the ELECTOR Internet Voting System is actually more secure, not less secure than present voting methods as established by the Worldwide Election Systems, Inc (http://www.internetvoting.com).
Finally, after making the voting process much more convenient
to the young voter population, it is up to the government to
place emphasis as to why it important to vote. Instead of using
up more money to develop more campaign ads, each state department
of education should ensure that its state includes American
government as a mandatory course. A course such as this one
will provide students with information about the whole electoral
process along with the benefits and purpose of voting. Teachers,
who often provide good role models for students, will help instill
the idea of voting as necessary. This course should help prepare
students to vote by the age of eighteen.
Essay themes: Money in politics; media's role; coverage of campaigns; lack of choices; proportional representation; ballot access
Political participation has traditionally been low among young people. Currently about one-third of eligible young adults vote. In order to fix this problem, it is best to first investigate the reasons behind it, and then try to correct the causes. It is best to cure the disease, not just treat the symptoms.
Many young people do not vote because they are not sure who to vote for. We are trying our hardest to figure out who we are as people, much less decide our views on complex political issues. Many people are so busy and preoccupied with trying to decide about and establish a career that they do not have time to get involved with the government.
Another reason why the just-over-18 age bracket often has the lowest political participation rates is because some young adults just don't care. There are many reasons to be cynical about government, and these contribute to a decision not to vote at all. As a high-school senior, I have been learning more about the United States government this year. To tell the truth, it is very frustrating to find out, for example, just how much of a role money plays in the electoral process. While growing up, I always had faith that our government was the best it could be. To learn about the human fallacy that often results in the downfall of good government is disillusioning. Also, there is a nationwide mistrust of the government these days that has certainly been instilled in much of America's youth.
Another problem of the politics of today is the lack of choice represented by the candidates. Lately it seems that the Republicans and Democrats have been fighting over who claims the center, since the majority of the American public falls in that category. If both parties claim the same stances on issues, a young person might not see the difference between this country and China, where only one choice exists on the ballot.
Unfortunately, politics often does not have the kind of appeal that many young adults are looking for. A channel-surfer does not generally pause at C-SPAN because it looks cool. Debating politics is considered a touchy subject often accompanied by the phrase, "Don't go there." Something to keep in mind, however, is that not all of these reasons why some young people do not vote certainly do not apply to everyone. Most young people I know will vote and are excited about voting in the next elections, and I, myself, am not voting only because I am not old enough. While some of the above statements do apply to many people, they should not be used as stereotypes because there are plenty of young people who do not fit them.
So how do we solve these problems? Trying to fix the "problem" of individual insecurity of belief is pretty hard to do. However, ensuring that the average citizen is very well informed is a step in the right direction. Government class in high school is a good way of informing youth about the issues involved in politics. Also, if the candidates took stronger stances on issues, there would be more of a clear division between the two parties. The vague ideology of the candidates also contributes to confusion over whom to vote for. A perfect example of vagueness is the current battle between Bush and McCain over who is the "real reformer."
The role that the media plays in politics could also be improved. If the media would focus less on which candidate is ahead and more on the debate of issues, young people would be better informed and therefore, more likely to vote. Unfortunately, the media follows what the public wants to hear, and the public apparently wants to hear about who's beating whom. However, a way to counteract that dilemma would be to institute a show like Great Britain's "Question Time." Such a show is exciting, fun to watch, and very informative. This also ensures that the nation's leader knows what he or she is talking about and is highly informed about all the important issues. Appealing to the younger generation should not be done through a makeup artist, but rather through means of communication that are easily understood. Any teacher can tell you that younger people are more likely to pay attention to a fast-paced, witty debate than to a long, drawn-out lecture.
The lack of choices available could be counteracted by allowing a third party candidate easier access to official candidacy and providing proportional representation. The huge increase of support for independents in recent elections shows the dissatisfaction that many people feel towards the two major parties. Access to government positions for independents relies on their ability to survive the political battle of a campaign without a major party backing. Proportional representation would make it easier for Independents to be heard in Congress. However, keeping within the bounds of feasibility (and the Constitution) is important.
Relaxing the barriers to the ballot would increase the plausibility of Independents winning more elections, thus increasing the choice given to the citizens. Finally, making the process more smooth and decreasing the amount of red tape one has to go through in order to vote would also help the voting situation. It is a pain to remember to register and to vote, especially for young people living on college campuses in other states. The process for absentee voting varies from state to state, creating confusion. Some possible ways of overcoming these difficulties are by allowing people to register on Election Day, making Election Day a federal holiday, and/or instituting online voting. The last one would be especially useful for college students that do not want to go through the process of requesting an absentee ballot, etc., since most colleges have Internet access. Although there would be security issues involved that would make establishing it difficult, online voting could be very beneficial.
There are many ways in which the low percentage of voting
young adults could be combated. The most important would be
to increase the interest level in politics through shows similar
to "Question Time" and with discussions of how federal and even
state laws affect young voters. When young people care more
about politics, they will vote.