The fall semester of the current senior class’ freshman year was marked by one important political event: the 2008 presidential election. Many of us voted, making our voices heard. Just three years later, we seem to be mute.
According to the Higher Education Research Institute of the University of California, 51 percent of eligible youth aged 18-29 voted in the last presidential election. By the 2010 midterms, when the conservative Republicans, some backed by the Tea Party, overtook the House of Representatives, that number was down to about 20 percent.
The standards to be able to vote in the United States are fairly simple and straightforward. Voters must be at least 18 years old, American citizens and registered to vote 21 days before Election Day in their home state. Once registration has been completed, it only has to be changed if the voter moves to another district, changes his or her name, changes party affiliation, etc. One place where registration can be completed is at the Motor Vehicle Commission in New Jersey, meaning that registering to vote is no more complicated than renewing a driver’s license or non-driver ID.
Voting is a right that many of us seem to have forgotten the importance of honoring. This August marked 91 years since the 19th Amendment was ratified, allowing women to vote. It has been approximately 150 years since the 14th Amendment was ratified, allowing African American men to vote. Today, suffrage extends further than it ever has previously, yet few take advantage of this fact.
To cast a ballot is to perform a civic duty. This concept of a citizen’s duty to the state goes back to the ancient Greeks. Aristotle wrote on this topic, “Man is by nature a political animal,” implying that participation in the political system and a larger society is a part of how we separate ourselves from animals. Yet, since many of us do not vote, the suggestion is that we are not worthy of calling ourselves human.
Voter turnout, especially among young voters, has been in decline since the 1960s. In the 2008 election, 64 percent of the total adult population voted. That means that 36 percent of eligible voters chose not to vote for whatever reason. As these numbers drop, it becomes the few making decisions for the many. When citizens refuse to vote, they are saying that they are happy with the status quo. That seems unlikely considering our president’s current approval rating with both liberals at 72 percent and conservatives at 21 percent. Considering this situation, the solution is obvious: to vote.
While it is too late to register for Election Day 2011, the 2012 Elections are slightly over a year away and next year is a presidential election. A third of the Senate and the entirety of the House of Representatives will be up for reelection. State and local elections will also be taking place. As a citizen of the world’s most powerful democratic country, let the ballots do the talking.
– Jess Scanlon
Senior journalism major