Not in school
Essay themes: Easier voter registration; Internet/mail voting
RACHEL J. CARTWRIGHT
Essay Themes: Voter Registration Ease; Internet/mail voting
In a nation of free people, it is amazing that citizens do not even use the right given to them by the constitution. I grew up having pride in the United States of America, and I believe that the people of this nation must come together to bring positive change for their communities. Voting is a major way to contribute to change in this country. So what can we do, as citizens, to get the younger people out to make their voices heard?
One idea behind the lack of people at the polls is the inaccessibility of voter registration locations. The "Motor Voter Act" was a great start to get people who would not register otherwise to get registered. Now, how do we get these people to keep coming to the polls? Why not make voting easier by having all voting done via internet and/or mail? You can do nearly anything on the internet nowadays from purchasing goods to applying for credit. As the world is getting immersed in technology, the government needs to keep up just to encourage the growth of our nation. Another way to increase access to the polls is to enlist the cooperation of employers and schools in the country to encourage their employees to vote by giving incentives such as paid breaks or reminder systems.
Considering most registered voters have to work and/or attend school an incentive program would increase voting totals from previous years. Many people like to label the younger generation as apathetic. If this is true, then what caused such a poor attitude? Being a member of this younger generation, I have to say that maybe it's not about being apathetic, but rather a changing of priorities. In the process the importance of the vote has left our minds, or what if the importance of the vote was never taught to us growing up? Either way a solution needs to be found to this growing problem of low voter turnout. If the vote is so important to us, then why don't we stress this to all the younger kids? For example, in the 1980's, President Reagan implemented the "Just Say No" program, and that program itself has increased awareness of our problems with drugs. Why not do something similar for stressing the right to vote?
There are many ways to establish such a program. The following are just a few ideas. One way would be to teach lessons in elementary school about the privilege it is to have the right to the vote, and include the fights people made to gain the vote for certain groups such as women and African Americans. A logo could be attached to the lessons, so kids would remember growing up what it is to vote. At this stage kids should be encouraged to talk to their parents about the issues being presented to them. Students could create "worlds" of what it would be like if something happened to pass, or if someone else was elected to office. How different things might actually be? We need to be taught that we cannot take our lives for granted, and that things can change for the worse or the better. What if the U.S. did not win the second world war? We all need to think about the fact that we do have control over our decisions as a nation. All students (eighteen and over) need to be allowed to have more convenient access to ballots to show how privileged it is to vote. If this means getting out of class for fifteen minutes, then why not? We all must make time for voting.
Another idea for reaching younger voters who do not attend school is to enlist the cooperation of all companies whom people are dependent on ( such as grocery stores, video stores, etc.) to be locations for providing written information about upcoming elections. The Customer Service Helper could drop in a voters pamphlet with the other groceries being purchased. Flyers could be printed to present one issue or the candidates ideas for office. The more information that is passed around, the better the chance is that one more person will vote. There are many ideas out there to change procedures and to get more people out to vote. If people were just taught the value of having the right to vote at an early age, then the same system could be used with no problems. As long as the procedures for voting stay up with technology, then all we need to do is to continue teaching the values that were brought to this country to begin with.
Essay themes: Proportional representation
Political participation by youth in this country is abysmal. The reasons are many, the solutions difficult. We are a country of diverse cultures, needs and beliefs. I believe that much of our disenchantment with our present political process is that as youth we see little in the way of any change from the status quo. The tyranny of the majority must come to an end. Our system, the first democratic experiment, was designed to keep the majority element in control, and compel compliance from the rest. We must change to proportional representation if we expect citizens to participate in the electoral process when their views do not coincide with the majority. At present there is no apparent incentive to vote for one of two nearly identical elements. No minority opinion or interest can ever achieve majority influence. In a proportional system, as structured in most of the newer democracies, minorities can achieve representation. With representatives in government, they can then achieve results through bargaining/cooperation/compromise with other groups to achieve their goals. Until we can meet the needs of all of our population, what is the incentive to participate in a system that governs without our participation/consent. Is this democracy? I think not. Though young, we are not blind. Give us some choices and we will vote.
Essay themes: Educating young people
As political participation by young voters continues to plummet in our great democracy, the solution is not very easy. In any democracy, voter turnout is essential. But in the United States, people don't seem to care anymore -- especially young people. What should we do? By way of reform there is not that much we can do. What we need to do is not overly difficult, but it is extremely important and requires the help of most all voters. We simply need to educate non-voters about voting, and let them know why their vote is necessary.
I am appalled by how few of my peers vote. I observed student after student walk past the voting area in the center of my residence hall. In the largest residence complex at Washington State University, which houses over a thousand students very few students took the short amount of time to vote. They did not even have to go an inch out of their way, but most students still would not vote. Even in a college environment, students don't seem to care. At least not enough to vote. But after observing debates in my Political Science 101 and Criminal Justice 101 classes, I realized that most students do have very strong feelings toward different issues.
So, why don't we vote? Many non-voters will tell you they do not care; others say it will not make a difference since there is only one of them; others will say they are fed up with politicians and government; others don't know how to register and do not want to go out of their way to find out how while others are just too lazy. Most any reform attempt commonly brought up fails. They would either not increase voter turnout or contradict the Constitution and call for a drastic change that would not be feasible or desirable.
The only reform I suggest is to make registering to vote easier. Election Day voter registration would be a big step. But whether or not it's possible to register to vote on Election Day, people need to know how to register. I am still unsure about how to register to vote. I signed up on the Internet to have a voter registration packet mailed to me, so I was able to register by mail. I tried to find out where I could register to vote, but it seemed as though nobody knew. Perhaps it is easier in other states, but here in Washington making voter registration easier would be a great help. Not much would have to be done. When teachers are encouraging students to vote, they could tell them where to go to register as well. Or perhaps mail out voter registration forms in the mail to those who turn 18, as they send the Selective Service Cards out. It would not be a hard task, but simply making it easier to register would go a long way.
The critical question however is why we should vote. This is the question parents, teachers, politicians, and everyone who wants our American democracy to succeed should preach to young people. This is the reform we desperately need. It starts at home. A great number of parents are not voting sending the message to their children that it doesn't matter. Parents must vote and teach their children why it is necessary that they vote. Schools must teach students that they have constitutional duty to vote, and why it is necessary. The media could be a great influence if it actively tried to teach young people the importance of voting. Politicians could do a much better job of encouraging young people to vote. Most everyone could influence these young people, and encourage them to vote. The future of American democracy depends on it.
So why should we vote? As citizens of the United States it is our duty to vote. Democracy only exists if the people want it to exist. If voter turnout keeps dropping, our democracy is gone. The constitution would become worthless. Most everyone complains about certain aspects of government. It is our duty to change it. If we do not vote how can we elect a president who will represent our ideas? Or a congressman, governor, mayor, sheriff, or prosecutor? Politicians can not give us what we want if they do not know what we want. If only half of the population is represented by our representatives is it really even a democracy? That is why I am appalled by the notion that so many people do not care. Most everything we vote on affects them. Those who are fed up with politicians have the worst excuse. If they do not like it why not try to change it? And those who do not believe their vote would make a difference? Imagine if all of them did vote. It could change a whole lot. They would actually be represented in their local, state, and national governments. That is a great concept that could make America the great democracy it is supposed to be.
Essay themes: Education and understanding
Before our eighteenth birthdays, our high school secretary,
Mrs. Hewlett would call us into the office and sit us down.
As we sat there she started out by asking who The President
of the United States was and our Washington Governor. After
we answered she would start asking us questions like... Are
you happy with the job our President is doing?
After her little question and answer session she would hand us a voter registration. She would sit there while we filled it out, and even mailed it off for us when we were done. I would have to say 90 percent of my graduating class are now registered voters.
She made me realize what a privilege voting is. That I have an influence on the choices that are made for my community, my state and even my country.
A way to make my peers realize how important the voting privilege is would be to talk to them on a high school level. Slowly introduce the vocabulary that is used in politics. Let it be known in a big way what a big impact that one vote can do.
As you can see I feel strongly about my voting rights. I think the voting age is at a good age, put a little grown up, adult responsibility on our shoulders. After all we are the future.
"A government is like fire: a handy servant, but a dangerous master." (George Washington)
We as Americans have the ability to tame this fire, but we must vote to do so. However, political participation by young people is plummeting. So, why don't we vote? Actually, the real question we should be asking is not whether we vote or we don't vote, but why don't we register to vote? I believe that is one of the main issues on why political participation by young people is plummeting. So how do we empower young voters, you ask.
First of all, you have to make learning about politics easier and more gratifying. Why? Well, here's why: we are the generation of MTV. Our eyes are constantly glued to the television set. I know MTV's done it before with Rock the Vote, but that's not enough. There is always room for improvement. Furthermore, if it was made to be more appealing by using major celebrities and contests, I'm pretty sure there would be a difference in voter and registration turnout. Moreover, the main reason for lack of voters is due to the hassle of having to go through the registration process. If registration were made more easily ready and accessible, then of course you would have a greater turnout. For instance, the number on non-voters is due to the number of non-registered voters and, for those of whom are registered, they are voting. So you see here, the key issue is getting people to register. On that account, why aren't people registering to vote? One reason is this, if non-voting is cost less, then there will be more non-voting. Makes sense, right? To cite an instance, it costs too much money and none at all in other countries to register.
Also, in some European countries and in Canada as well, the government has control of registration and automatically registers all citizens if they are eligible. This would take the burden off of us having to hassle with registration and is done at no cost. Despite this idea of automatic registration, it opens the door to voting fraud because Americans tend to move around a great deal and are able to change their names whenever they feel they want to. Another potential reform is election-day voter registration. Currently, it is only effective in four out of our fifty states. And of those four states, their voter turnout increased where the remaining forty-six states decreased. Thus, why hasn't there been an increase country-wide for election-day registration? As for me, if I knew I could register the same day as I voted, I would be most definitely obliged.
In addition, I think Internet voting would be a major plus because look at how many of us are always online. Why do you think my Mom had to get another phone line for our house? We as teens spend so much time on the Internet since so many things are available to us; such as, shopping, checking homework and our grades, book notes, encyclopedias, and much more just by the touch of a key. Another nuisance that comes with voting registration is jury duty. How else do they pick your name to serve? That's the reason why one of my 19-year-old friend says he hasn't registered to vote. When one registers to vote, they do it because they want to help make a difference because voting is the most common form of political participation, but not if its going to come with strings attached. Furthermore, we as Americans are not only voting for a few offices, but a few thousand a year. Whereas in Europe, you either vote for the parliamentary or against. Since we have so many elections to vote for, it's not as big of an issue for us to get up and go to the polls as regularly as someone living in a country run by a parliamentary system.
Finally, a point I see as an indication as to why we don't vote is in the insufficiency of party strength. Political parties of today arena longer as effective as they once were in mobilizing voters, ensuring they are registered, and getting them to the polls. We do not strongly identify with parties because they have grown to be somewhat distant. So if they want our votes, they have to get our attention with real issues that will affect us and ones that we care about. "The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't being said." (Unknown) I believe that required debates between all candidates for any office would, first of all, increase our awareness of their presence, but chiefly to allow us to understand their viewpoints and where they stand on certain issues. If you want us to vote, you are going to have to get us to understand the difference we can, and are going to make. What young people need to realize is, "When you cant have what you want, it's time to start wanting what you have." (Kathleen A. Sutton)What we have here is the power to make a difference. And to think, all you have to do is vote. "I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; I will not refuse to do the something I can do." (Helen Keller)
Essay themes: Use the Internet to promote political and election information
The other day, upon preparing for a class debate, I came across a quote by Peter Marshall. It said, "...we may know where to stand and what to stand for-because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything." America's youth must begin with the end in mind by believing in something, and understanding that what they believe affects them. In reflecting upon democracy in America, one can see that the desire for youth to vote is slight. However, more frequently I have seen debates and question/answer hours on the stations that target me as a youth. Although these are helpful, I still do not see America's youth rushing to the voting booths to cast a vote. It seems funny that youth seem to be so opinionated, yet they still refuse to make a simple, educated check in a small box. As a coming-of-age voter, it is my moral obligation to educate myself about the issues that will affect me not only for the next presidential term, but also for my lifetime. The ideas like required debates, election-day holidays, and Internet voting are all very innovative, however, the root of the problem is that America's youth is not educated about our political system and how it affects them. Because of this, young people often mimic what their parents say about politics instead of forming an educated opinion for themselves. My political views have been formulated upon what I believe is fact, not what my parents discuss at the dinner table.
In fact, I often challenge what they say when we discuss politics. I read the paper daily, follow candidates closely, and from this have developed a knowledgeable and well-informed opinion that is mine alone. For America's youth to be able to develop conversant beliefs, they must understand that methods such as lowering the voting age, keeping polls open longer, and proportional representation help, but do not solve the issue at hand. A solution to this problem is difficult to propose, because many youth believe that theirs is _only one vote, and will not make a difference in the election results. As a seventeen year old who will be eighteen shortly, I am eager, excited, and in anticipation of the day I am able to punch a hole in the card that tells America what I believe. I am more than one vote, one voice, and one opinion. My one opinion counts, and I want to show America that I am concerned for its future. I have the opportunity to participate in a democratic process; to change what I feel needs change. I believe that the first change, even before our new president signs the first bill, should be that America's youth cares about their moral obligation to vote. There are many ways to influence young people. We are influenced by what we see, what we do, and what we hear.
Our minds change easily, and we form quick opinions. If America's youth were able to see a presidential debate concerning issues related to their daily concerns, political participation would rise. If America's youth were to hear a speech given by a presidential hopeful concerning topics associated with our needs, political participation would rise. If America's youth were to be able to meet and talk to a presidential nominee online, political participation would rise. But the problem with these ideas is that much of America's youth is unconcerned with any type of politics. I believe the solution to this lack of concern is to find a way to inform the youth that this election does matter, and it will affect them later on. There are many ways the media can assist with a solution to this problem, in addition to what they have done thus far. I know that by tuning into certain radio stations I am able to hear one viewpoint. I also know that by flipping to a certain station on my television, I can see a biased report on either the Republican or Democratic Parties. These stations will remain nameless, but the point exists that there are stations available, biased and unbiased, and there are resources for youth to learn about their job as citizens.
Here is the solution, the change that must be made. America's youth must be encouraged. We must be expected by our nation to cast our vote, and we must be enthusiastic and eager about doing so. I believe that the best way to reach youth with encouragement is online through the Internet. I have reached numerous websites fully dedicated to certain political campaigns, each releasing every stance, quote, speech, address, and appearance that that particular nominee has offered. If America's youth is encouraged by their peers, teachers, parents, and influential celebrities to get out and vote, they will be able to begin with the end in mind, and see that what they do now will effect them in the end; the future. John Stuart Mill said, "If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind." If I have one vote, that one vote is plenty. I cannot silence mankind, just as much as mankind cannot silence my one vote and me. I would hope that America's youth would understand that, unlike other countries, we have the opportunity to vote. Thus, at voting age, it is our right and obligation to vote. We have been given the opportunity to participate in the world's most influential process - the ability to tell the world what we believe through a single vote.
Essay themes: Overcoming apathy
The columnist David Broder wrote in an end-of-year editorial that while democracy in America is as strong as it has ever been, representative government is weak. Great struggles have been waged this century to secure enfranchisement for all citizens, yet there are large numbers of people, particularly the young, who are not exercising their right to vote. It would be convenient and simple if this discouraging trend could be turned around by small reforms in the voting process, and while such changes would probably have a small positive effect, they do not address the root of the problem. That problem is, as the media has recognized, voter apathy. Apathy will not dissipate with the implementation of an election day holiday. Rather, a fundamental shift in the way politics is viewed necessary. Unfortunately, such a change cannot be legislated.
The reason voter apathy exists is that young people do not have faith in the system: they do not believe that their vote will make a difference, nor do they believe that whether a Democrat or Republican leads the country makes a difference; either way, the end will be gridlock and catering to special-interests. In the minds of the younger generation, the term "government" conjures up images of old, out-of-touch politicians vying for power, uninterested in the needs of those beyond their immediate interest groups. The way to counteract such negative notions of government involves convincing the people that government can be a tool for positive developments, and that who leads this country does make a difference. They need to be convinced that government is more than a money-wasting bureaucracy. In short, their faith in America's government needs to be restored.
How, then, can the young and apathetic be convinced? The answer, I believe, lies in changing the game of political transformations that, unfortunately, cannot be legislated. The first step is a change in attitude on the part of politicians. Members of government need to stop belittling the institution that they serve. It is a common practice to denounce the "inside the beltway" games that Washington bureaucrats play. However, such a negative attitude towards government on the part of politicians engenders a parallel negative attitude on the part of the people. Why should the young respect government if politicians are tripping over each other in their haste to denounce it? Next, politicians need to make tangible accomplishments their highest priority, not pleasing the party bigwigs. This will help combat the idea that it makes no difference who runs the country because special interests and gridlock will be the rule either way. If results rise in importance, both parties will be willing to work together, to compromise, in order to achieve their goals. This also means that politicians must be willing to take risks, to support programs that may break with tradition. As a fourth change, a greater diversity in the composition of representatives of Congress is important to transform the image that government caters solely to old white men. More women, more young people, and more minorities are needed in government. Ironically, this will not happen until those groups start voting in greater numbers: it's a paradigm of a catch-22. However, diversity will come, if and when the current politicians take it upon themselves to change their negative attitudes to positive ones, and to take the risks necessary to affect the changes that their constituents desire.
In the meantime, changes in the electoral system could be implemented that would increase the convenience of voting and would therefore increase political participation by a small degree, for those who have not lost too much faith in the system. Such changes are not the long-term answer because for the apathetic, voting will be too inconvenient no matter what changes are affected. However, it is a reasonable place to start. In order to give people more time to go to the polls, instituting a sort of "half-day holiday" would help. Businesses and offices would close early, at 3 or 4 p.m. rather than 5 or 6 p.m., and polls should stay open until 8 p.m. Internet voting is another reasonable addition to the voting process, and one which is particularly useful for reaching younger voters, for they are more familiar with computers and the internet overall then other age groups. The elimination of the electoral college would also be a good reform to make, though its function is too erudite to impact the political participation of young voters. The college serves no useful function when it simply elects the candidate who was elected a month earlier in the popular vote. And, if the electoral vote reverses the popular vote, it is doing a disservice to the people. These modest reforms in the electoral process have a good chance of increasing voter participation moderately, but they are not far-reaching enough: they will not end voter apathy.
There is no easy solution to the unfortunate lack of political interest by young voters. The issue is mainly one of confidence in the political system, a confidence that at present is broken. And while reforms in the electoral process have the potential to increase participation by small numbers, it does not address the root of the problem. Only a change in the way politics is viewed, by both the voters and the politicians, can end the indifference that characterizes young voters' attitudes. It is the prerogative of the politicians to make the first move, to accord government service the respect that it deserves, rather than propagating the public's suspicion with suspicions of their own. As a member of the current generation of young voters, I see firsthand the cynicism that characterizes my peers' political beliefs. For them, for us, the constant squabbling of the old white men who comprise our government is a case-in-point as to why voting will make no difference at all. It is this belief that must be reversed before political participation will improve.
Essay themes: Need for more information; advantages of proportional representation
According to the information given, young adults are less likely to vote, or even care about issues on the ballot. College campuses around the nation should become involved, since they are the primary place one can find young voters. They need to step up their involvement in political issues in order to educate those students to make valuable votes. This will increase the number of young adults who are in the know, and who want to make a difference. This will add to the general education of our society's young people.
Although the government wants to reach young people, they must determine at what age a young person is mature enough to make such electoral decisions. Sixteen and seventeen year olds, although beginning to get interested in politics, have school, grades, and college to think about before they need to think about the issues of our nation. If one looks at high school elections, they will notice that the most popular person tends to win most class elections. To have this scenario replayed in our political arenas would not serve us well. Adolescents are far more worried about their own personal lives to worry about issues affecting their county, state, or even country. They might have opinions, but they are slightly affected by their natural immaturity, that they might understand the other side, or even want to try.
Posting information on the Internet has made it easier for young people to read about both sides of an issue, but the Internet isn't regulated enough to have Internet voting. People could, and will, falsify information to vote more than once on an issue they feel strongly about, thereby corrupting the ballot box. Although one would like to think that wouldn't happen, our society proves time and again that people will do whatever it takes to win; no matter what the cause. Having a live person stand in a voting booth and punch out the holes is the best way to keep elections legitimate. For those people who cannot make it to the voting booth, such as the elderly, disabled, or those who work strange hours, perhaps a new system can be arranged. It would involve an employment position, working for the state, or federal government, like our mail carriers. A phone number would be advertised for those unable to reach the voting booth, and they could call to set up an appointment where a person (or persons) brings the ballot right to their door. So their opinion is counted along with the rest of their peers. This should be done prior to Election Day, in order to keep an account of who has voted (a list would be kept with their names highlighted as having voted already), so the individual utilizing the service cannot come in and vote again. This way, the state can maintain the one-vote-per-person system.
Information about the issues and candidates in plain language will definitely have an impact, since most referendums and initiatives are written in legal terms that hardly anyone can understand. In Washington state, they had an extremely controversial initiative, regarding lowering vehicular licensing fees and regulating the government's ability to levy extra taxes to make up for the loss. Both sides of the initiative had exceptionally biased advertisements, making it difficult for the average person to discern what would be best for the city. The petty attacks on opposing views and candidates make it tiring for the average person to wade through the mess and find a non-biased explanation. Most young people, as with every other adult, have jobs and/or school to worry about, and are less inclined to working to understand the issues on the ballot because they have more pressing personal issues.
Proportional representation has the potential to make our elections more accurate, since candidates will have to campaign on issues that are truly important, instead of just digging up dirt on the other candidates to destroy their images. With proportional representation, candidates will wind up working with each other eventually, so advertising image-destroying material during a campaign would make it harder to work with their future collaborators. Usually, in mud-slinging campaigns, the voters rarely hear about the issues, which forces them to fall back into that childish "vote for the most popular person" way of thinking. Proportional representation will hopefully bring an end to this (by the sheer fact that it is really difficult to work with someone you have practically slandered) and open the route to a more diversely orientated government.
(Proportional Representation) was tried in the U.S. in the 1920's and worked very well in 24 cities like New York City, Boulder, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Cambridge, MA. Both the majority and various political and racial minorities gained representation where their voices had previously been unheard.(1) These reforms will make it easier for voters, of all ages, to understand what is being voted on, and encourage them to vote. Young people all over this country will find it in their best interests to vote, instead of just ignoring the issues because they're too hard to decipher. Increased political participation will actively affect the way our cites are run, because the votes are determined by a true majority, instead of the majority of people who decided they had time to go vote. With increased political participation, more of my peers will be interested in what's going on in our nation, and add to the overall intelligence of our society. (1) http://www.fairvote.org/pr/q_and_a.htm
Essay themes: More education and information needed for voters
and young people
First of all, I think that today's youth need to be educated. Many of those few that do vote, do it for the "I Voted" sticker, not the future of this country. Kids today don't know what is going on in the political arena. In my Political Science 101 class we learned about the Electoral College. To most, including myself, this system came across as proving that one voter has no "real" say in our elected officials anyway, so why bother to take the time and vote. It was only with a little extra explaining and convincing that I began to understand how this system really works. However, most of today's youth don't. Believe it or not, this system seems to imply that one person's single vote has no meaning. Public officials need to take the time to inform young voters of how this system really works, and why it is beneficial to vote.
Secondly, I think today's youth are so sick of hearing about politicians that they don't want to vote for ANYONE who makes some of the headlines of today's "leaders". In order to earn the trust of today's youth I think many politicians need to be more aware of their standing in the media. Media is such a powerhouse for youth's information that to ignore your public appearance is political suicide. And last of all, in order to encourage today's youth to vote, politicians need to put issues on the agenda that relate to people of the age bracket that is lacking in participation. Unfortunately, humans can be selfish people. If a perspective voter walks up to the voting booth and sees nothing on the ballot that will affect them in the near future, chances are they will walk away. Youth look at that ballot and see issues of health reform, primary education, Social Security, and welfare, and they really don't see how voting on these issues will better them any time in the near future. I think politicians need to be aware that youth would like to see, primarily, issues dealing with secondary education. We all know an educated voter is the best voter, and in order to educate you need students who can afford to go to school.
Maybe, then, I would be out persuading my fellow youth to strive for political participation instead of writing an essay to allow myself to stay in college. This country is in dire need of political reform when it comes to youth political participation. If we could get young adults out to the voting booths everyone would benefit from what "we" have to say. The single voter DOES have a voice, they just need to be told that. One has to question if this country is truly a democracy anymore. it's a guarantee that it is no longer ?one voice, one vote?. Youth have a lot to say, if only they can be taught that in order to better this country the single person must take the first step. That step is to cast your vote and let your voice be heard. Maybe then America's young people will understand that those issues that at first glance seem unimportant to them really are the future. How long will it be before it is our children that need a better high school education, or it's our parents who are fighting to be healthy. America's youth do need to open their eyes; unfortunately, so do the politicians that so desperately need those votes.
Essay themes: Need for leaders and greater education
Imagine a world where you are told what to do, what to think, and what to say. Imagine even still that this same power which is dictating to you your rights is endowed even further to take your life and your liberty as it desired. Now imagine you had the opportunity to fix things and make the world a better place but decided not to. I am growing up in a generation of citizens who are giving up that same right. Right now voter turnouts are the lowest in history, and it is not due to race or even gender discrimination, but from lost hope in our political system. A disenchantment if you will, which has spawned from a kind of political paralysis infecting our government that has betrayed the American fighting spirit and made its citizens powerless against its own political anger.
As I look at our political leaders today I do not see the kind of inspirational grandeur I read about in my textbooks. I do not get to listen to men such as John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King Jr. and become swept away in their remarkable speeches of the power of the human race. Instead I wake up every morning and listen to my government deny responsibility for their actions, give vague answers to its publics questions, and bad mouth each other on television. This utter lack of respect for each other and for the dignity inherent in the offices of our government has left me pondering the question "what difference could my vote make?" What difference could my vote make when the same brand of politician comes out to campaign each election year?
A brand of politicians so hypocritical of the situations they wish to regulate that they themselves at the time they were defying the laws they are now writing would rebel against them. Take marijuana for example. Most politicians who are in office at the moment grew up in the 60's and most likely experimented with drugs. Now they want to deny that right to their constituents. It is hypocritical law making like that is drawing the lines between my generation and the older generation. If you expect the worst from us then we will only seek to full fill those expectations. Now don't get me wrong I do not do drugs of any kind. But you can see the hypocritical law making going on.
Educate us, don't regulate us. You say you want to stop crime, supply my generation with someone to believe in. A hero if you will. A politician who's words are as great as his actions and who's words can inspire us to follow him. I am not asking for a moral cleansing of our government. Politicians are human just as I am and I do not expect them to act differently then I do. If I did I would be waiting for Martians to fly down and install a robotic government. I also know political leaders in the past have not been the most morally pure citizens. But many did have the ability to inspire, and while they may not have practiced what they preached they certainly motivated others to do what was right. A quality many politicians of my time seem to lack. Give me that kind of politician and I will vote for him, as will the rest of the country. It is not easier access to voting booths that we need or increased debates. It is a new belief in the system that the public needs.
Let a new political era begin with the new millennium. One that embraces a true democratic society that includes all of its members. Dante once wrote, _The hottest places in hell are reserved for those, who in times of great moral crisis, remain neutral._ So I guess this article is a call for a hero. It doesn't take much. All you have to do is stand up for what you think is right. That's not so difficult, is it?
Essay themes: Internet voting
I can buy horse food on the Internet. I can trade an old pair of tennis shoes for an umbrella, if I find the right owner of an umbrella, online. I can access the largest amounts of information, infotainment, and depending on the web-site, in-fornication, all on my computer. I can live a life without leaving my house, and all by logging-on. Is this beautiful, ethical, and self-bettering? America Online says so, so who am I to disagree. The world is moving in a new direction, and that direction is towards our living rooms and bedrooms. The world is heading into our computer consoles, but is our government, once a leader in ingenuity, following? To answer that, let me answer this. Can I vote online? No. I cannot even register to vote, online. The best I can do is e-mail someone to send me the voter registration.
And we call this the land of the free? The government of today claims a lack of interest among the youth of today. They claim we have no interest in politics. I claim they have no interest in the ways of the youth. I know it is true. Why? Because they claimed the same thing when they were young. Well, now it is the beginning of yet another revolution of generations. The economical structure of this country is now run by men and women well below their 40's, and the political structure is soon to follow. The last general shift in how our government would come to power, was the introduction of television. The voting public could now see all the candidates, without leaving their homes! Everyone could now see the candidates themselves debate over issues, right in their own living rooms. It was a picture worthy of a Sears and Roebuck advertisement. Now, however, is the time for the introduction of the personal computer and Internet.
Yes, I can read about the candidates online. Yes, I can research the issues and initiatives I find important. But that could always be done with television or, not to be totally disregarded, the newspaper. What new political freedom can my government offer? What is the change in how our government comes to be that will help reverse the lack of interest in all generations, not just the young? All registered voters should be able to vote online by the 2004 election! By allowing citizens to vote via the Internet, the United States government will be making the logical and progressive step towards voter reform, changing the way voters and non-voters view the election process. By making voting such a hassle free, non-time consuming affair, it will force one more reason off the apathetic citizen's list of "reasons not to vote." With Internet safety improving steadily over the past few years, the problems of unauthorized voting would be very minimal.
Internet voting would simply allow a larger population an even better opportunity to vote, and do what they have always done on Super Tuesday, stay home. For proof that voter participation would increase, we need only look towards the recent trend of online brokering or e-trading. E-trading has offered an enormous amount of interested people the opportunity to buy and sell stocks. These are people who would not have participated in such an activity if it had not been taken from the control of a massive conglomerate of banks and brokers, and put into the familiar environment of computers and the Internet. The voting process could experience the same liberating reform.
In the past few years, as I have gained the right to vote and look forward to doing so, I have watched as countless people of my generation have sat idly by while their ballots remain empty. While it saddens me to see such a lack of passion towards the shaping and reshaping of our government, I also know that our government cannot afford to sit idly by as well, watching the number of active voters dwindle down year after year. Reform is necessary and also simple. Voting online will change the way people view voting, from annoying hassle to an important and easy task. I previously had no objection to the non-voting public. I felt that by their lack of interest, they were, in a small way, only making my vote more important. What now seems evident to me, though, is that with a growing number of non-voters, we send only a message to our government that we care not as to what they do. The government of a democracy such as this, is meant to be controlled by the people. Only by having all citizens voting, whether it be in booths or online, will the government not control us.
Essay themes: lowering the voting age, classes in government in school
As an 18-year-old U.S. citizen, I am fortunate enough to be able to vote in the first presidential election of the new millennium. I am lucky that I am still in high school learning about U.S. Government and World Politics with teachers who care about current affairs and teach their students the importance of having an opinion and doing something about it. Many young people do not have the opportunity to turn 18 before a major election year. They can go for years after high school, losing faith in our government and believing that their opinions don't matter, and will not make a difference. This sad fact is the primary reason we need to involve our citizens in politics at 16 years old. While 16 year olds do not have as many rights as do 18 year olds, they are faced with many responsibilities and opportunities that should allow them the right to make important decisions that affect their future. At the age of 16, a person can attain a driver's license, which opens the door to a tremendous amount of responsibilities and issues to deal with. They are now responsible for a car, license fees, and any traffic infractions they are involved in. Most youth start working at the age of 16, where they are treated as adults, and taxed as adults as well. These taxes are used to fund government programs, therefore, they should be able to vote on how their tax dollars are used. In an innovative new program in participating states, high school students as young as 16 years old can participate in Running Start. This allows them to go to a community college full time, while also receiving high school credit. Most students start collegiate 18 or 19, yet the educational system trusts that 16 years old is an age of maturity and responsibility to handle the huge task of college work. Most of these students maintain part time jobs as well. We trust these individuals to drive safely, pay traffic fees, work professionally, pay taxes, and attend higher education institutes, like adults. Clearly, these young people should have the right to have opinions like adults.
Lowering the voting age to 16 would give teachers, parents, and politicians the opportunity to create programs that reach students at a young age and get them excited about voting before it is too late. The government classes in school would be more in depth, with the student understanding by relating to what they are learning. Rather than memorizing words such as, "Electoral college" and "filibuster," they would participate in democracy and never forget the importance of our government. Campaigns would be set up in schools, television, and newspapers that encourage youth to go to the polls. They would feel their opinions count and gain a new sense of responsibility.
The results of this proposed reform are clearly beneficial to all Americans. A look at just a few of these benefits proves why this is the best possible reform. In contrast to what the opposition of the reform believes, 16 to 18 year olds have opinions on issues other than school dances and sales at the mall. They are valid and valuable because we receive the prospective of our youth; our nation's future. These opinions also represent another benefit: the great possibility that lowering the voting age would not only increase the number of young voters, but the number of total voters as well. Involving our youth in the voting process will create an excitement about democracy that will affect all people in the community. Teachers required to teach and motivate their students to vote, parents, grandparents, and community leaders will gain more knowledge of the issues and candidates on the ballot, also receiving these young people's opinions through discussion and learning. This will open minds and give everyone a fresh new prospective. This will result in a greater number of citizens taking part in the voting process and representing their opinions about our country in the polls.
To overlook all of these points when deciding how to attract young people to politics would be a sad event. It is clear that 16-year-olds are mature, full of responsibility, and are able to be trusted to make important decisions about the future that they share with all of us. Along with this reform would come great programs in schools and in the media that would get the youth involved and excited about the future of our democracy. The benefits of this reform would guarantee a passion for the voting process, and both our young population and the rest of the country would get involved in voting, and stay as such for the rest of their lives. Lowering the voting age to 16 years old is the best way to raise the political participation, not only of young people, but the rest of our citizens as well.
Essay themes: making voting easier, encouraging voting/engaging
young voters, making information about candidates more accessible
In some cases this cant be helped, there are always going to be people who just don't want anything to do with politics, campaigns, and voting days. When I turned 18 one of the first things I did, at my legal age, was to register to vote. At first I did it because, why not, its a privilege, I care, I'm legal now! Now I see it differently. I ask many of my friends why they don't vote. I almost always hear the same answer. I don't know. Like there is no interest in some teens, there is interest in many teens. The problem is it is just not easy to find and to accomplish. I searched for days on the Internet for the voter's application. I, like many other people in today's generation, find electronic applications much more convenient. Since I did not find the application I was delayed, and I didn't get to register for weeks later until I had time and reason to make a trip all the way downtown to the courthouse. I think many more people who find the convenience of doing things electronically would choose to register because of its simplicity (don't have to make the trip for the application, don't have to worry about filling out the form by hand, don't have to waste a stamp, and don't have to make a trip to the mailbox or post office to mail it.) I think the application needs to be more advertised and easily accessible on the web in order to get more peoples attention. It is much less trouble and more people would be inclined to do so. Another reason is because some people just don't flat out remember. Encouraging people to vote should be more widely used. Commercials, ads, links on the net, emails, fliers, and such things would bring it to peoples attention, and also make it easier for them to access the form and take care of it quickly.
Even registered voters choose not to vote. This is because politics do not interest the majority of people in our age and generation. It has always been portrayed as a dirty game full of greed and corruption. Many people therefore, find it complicated and boring to follow, myself included. It is also very hard to get information about candidates and initiatives. Reading the voters guide is the only source for those who choose not to follow the campaigns. Reading the voters guide can be tedious, and time consuming, and youth often times will not have the time or the patience to sit and read it through. A solution could be to offer more thorough guides, television ads, Internet ads, and possibly education at schools. Required debates between candidates over certain issues would also help people in their decisions, knowing where each candidate takes a stand. This will also help increase voting when people know that they want a certain person representing them because they know their views on important issues.
Another aspect or problem is voting day itself. Many youth are too busy or don't want to take time out to go somewhere to vote. Sometimes absentee voting is even time consuming. Most youth now have and use the web, and that is a much more efficient source and would probably spark more interest in the younger society. Ballots that are easy to read and understand will also help. Sometimes the complexity of ballots and speeches make voting seem like an adult activity, and it makes many young people push it away in favor of more simple things. Most importantly, our generation of young people today is the future, and it is important that they understand this and are aware of it. Their participation in making the decisions of our country and their state is crucial. It would help if more political figures made this known to them and therefore encouraging their participation. Some main steps to be taken are easy accessible ballots, invitations to register, easier campaigns to follow, easier ways to vote, and encouragement from the society that embraces our generation.
Essay themes: Critique of electoral college; winner-take-all election system; advantages of proportional representation; reforming voter registration
An intrinsic element in the success of a democratic society is the willingness of the people to be self-governing. In modern America, to say that we have a government that is for, by, and of the people does not mean that each citizen is autocratic and simply 'takes the law into his or her own hands,' but rather that each citizen has the responsibility to actively participate in this large-scale experiment known as American Democracy. Therefore, the problem of declining voter participation is a serious one indeed.
Several reasons for this enigmatic conundrum of voter apathy have become apparent in recent years. In many presidential elections, numerous Americans have found themselves compromising their views and voting not for the candidate with whom they resonate best, but rather for the candidate who they dislike the least. This compromise that is forced upon the electorate is a result of the two-party system on which we rely for voting simplicity.
Additionally, many voters are discouraged that their views are not represented by their elected government officials, and consequently, that they have no real power in their government. An anonymous Vermont farmer, when asked by an NPR reporter which presidential candidate he would be likely to vote for in the 2000 election, responded by stating that he honestly did not care who the president was because they were essentially all the same, and none of them would represent him effectively. While American democracy is arguably the best system of government in the history of the world, it is far from perfect.
In order to make this fragile experiment a long-term success, we must make fundamental changes to the statutes and processes that govern the workings of the government. These changes should include: the abolition of the electoral college, a more simple process by which to register to vote, and proportional representation of partisan views in governing bodies.
The Electoral College is an institution of the Federal Government that has outlived its usefulness and should be abolished in order to promote democracy in the United States. At its conception, the Electoral College was considered necessary because it emphasized the rights of individual states and made the process of counting ballots less onerous. In a true federal system, the electorate should vote in national elections as citizens of the nation, as opposed to citizens of their respective states. However, the winner-take-all system of the Electoral College that we currently use is not only non-federal, it is undemocratic as well. Since the popular vote is counted in each state individually, and the winner of each state receives all of that state's votes, it is theoretically possible for a candidate with a greater percentage of the popular vote to lose the election. The Electoral College effectively renders the votes of the state minority meaningless because the majority receives all of the Electoral College votes, as if the vote was unanimous in favor of one candidate. This is clearly not democratic. If the Electoral College were to be abolished, then all national elections could be based upon the popular vote of the national electorate; a true representation of the views of the nation.
Our current system of voter registration should be changed so that registration is a simpler, faster process in order to increase the level of voter participation. If the process of registering to vote were simpler, greater numbers of people would register and, consequently, vote. Online registration would be an excellent means by which to not only simplify the process, but increase its accessibility as well. Additionally, online registration would allow for faster processing speed. This lack of speed was problematic for me because I became eligible to vote on October 30, 1999, and registered soon after, but I was not yet eligible to vote in the November 3 State election. Not only is a simpler means by which to register to vote needed, but a simpler means by which to vote is needed as well. Use of absentee ballots should be encouraged, and the encryption necessary to secure online ballots should be developed so that voting could be conducted electronically. If the above steps are taken in order to streamline the voting process, more people will be likely to vote because less effort will be required of them.
A proportional representation of partisan views in governing bodies would promote the expression of all views, and increase political participation among groups who currently feel as though they have no real voice in American government. It is with disdain that I view the makeup of my State and Federal Legislatures and notice that nearly every Senator and Representative is a member of either the Republican or Democratic Party. Does this mean that there is not even one percent (the group size that a federal Senator theoretically represents) of the national electorate that holds views contrary to those of the Republicans and Democrats? Not one percent of registered voters are members of the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, or the Socialist Party? Governmental representation of specific political parties should be proportional to the popular support of those parties.
Instead of representing geographical regions, Federal and State representatives should represent the ideologies of the electorate. National representatives could represent a proportion of nation views, and State representatives could represent a proportion of state views. This would allow the views of minority parties to be not only expressed, but taken into account in the proceedings of the government as well. Many people, especially young people with disfavored views, would be encouraged to vote because their vote actually would have the potential of representing their true ideology. Democracy can only exist when the citizens of a democratic state are willing and able to take an active role in their government. If we can increase voter participation by eliminating the Electoral College, streamlining the voting process, and allowing for proportional representation of partisan views in our government, then these are critical means to a necessary end.
Essay themes: Need for political education
Young adults in this day and age lack political participation due to apathy. However, this apathy is not the result of an inborn dislike of politics and issues of local, state, and national public policy. Apathy is due to a lack of education among young persons on political issues and their ramifications. Without an understanding of politics and the difference an individual's political action can make, the nation's young adults will not take much (if any) active interest in local and national political action.
New electoral rules are not the answer. The American system as it exists currently is a very workable and reasonably efficient system of government. A change in the method of voting or adjusting the term limits of elected officials most likely will not increase political participation among young people, if they remain uneducated about basic politics and the benefits of political participation.
In Washington State, where I live, the majority of high schools fulfill a requirement of "Washington State History" by offering students a course that deals with the aspects of Washington's history from ancient times to the present day. The high school that I attend, however, fulfills this requirement with a senior-level course known as "Citizen Washington". This course fulfills the Washington State History requirement and gives a student enrolled in the course an introduction to public policy and politics at the local, state, and national level. Many facets of politics and political ideology are discussed in this course, giving students an idea where their political views lie on the political spectrum, and how to apply them. Students also must write a Public Policy Paper, in which a student must exhaustively research a current state-level policy (I wrote my Policy Paper on a controversial motor vehicle excise tax initiative), and discuss how such an issue could be improved or changed to better the public good. I completed Citizen Washington with a much greater understanding of local and national politics and also a sense of mission to take an active role in voting and bringing about change that is preferable to my political ideology.
Mandatory political education similar to the Citizen Washington course that I completed should be taught at the high school level, preferably as a senior course that is a required elective for graduation. The course's academic background should include an introduction to the spectrum of political ideology pertaining to liberal and conservative viewpoints and others among them, and where liberals and conservatives traditionally stand on political issues. Importance of political participation should be stressed (in the areas of participating in public policy and in elections). Students should be required to write a professionally researched paper that discusses a certain aspect of local, state, or national policy or law and describe how such a statute should be modified or changed, similar to the mission of the Public Policy Paper. A class similar to this would be invaluable to empowering young adults with necessary political knowledge. It would also be very cost-effective to implement, needing only the expense of new course materials and teacher training seminars to be included in a high school's curriculum.
Another method of encouraging teenagers to become more politically active would be to develop political youth organizations in cities and towns throughout the United States. Within such organizations, teenagers from ages fourteen through eighteen could meet, discuss, and vote on local, state, and national issues that affected them. The teen representatives from across a particular state would then have the opportunity to present the majority view to legislators and other local and state officials in their regions. There, students could offer ideas and initiatives for solutions by political action to counteract undesirable problems and situations affecting youth in today's society. By doing so, students would be given something of a voice in affecting and improving their society by means of political action, which would also inspire students involved in such youth organizations to become actively involved in politics at an individual level when they reach the age of voting.
Traditionally, the generation wielding the greatest spending
power is also the most politically active generation-the forty
to sixty year old, white collar professional. Due to this fact,
most policy aimed at benefiting the public need is proposed
by and directed to this group. What that has often meant in
terms of public policy has been a slightly more conservative
or middle-of-the-road outlook on politics and legislation that
benefits the politically active white-collar forty to sixty
year old -- namely tax cuts for higher tax brackets, welfare
reform, and the preservation of Medicare. Greater political
participation by younger people-the eighteen to twenty-five
year old generation-would most likely bring a somewhat more
liberal slant to the nation's political ideology. Young people
just graduating from college and starting employment could be
given advantageous tax breaks. Draconian governmental systems,
such as the mandatory Selective Services draft registration,
could potentially be eliminated and replaced with a draft system
that functioned only in the event of war. Young people can be
a rich source of ideas and energy, and educating them in the
discipline of politics is a way to shunt those ideas and energy
to mold our nation's future.