Young people should realize how important voting is

There’s no doubt that 2008 will be a year to remember. Potential candidates for United States President have been campaigning for what seems like years now.

What started out as a veritable rat race has slowly condensed into a more organized competition, but just barely. Every day presents new arguments, new revelations and new questions. With more candidates than you can count on both hands, it’s no wonder the 18-24 year old age bracket turns out so few voters.

There’s such a flurry of information. How can any sane individual, likely juggling schoolwork and a job on the side, make a sound decision about anything in an election? What happened to being a well-informed voter?

Perhaps the problem is that the 18-24 set knows that there’s a limit to how much information is helpful. At a certain point, they start to phase everything else out. By now, almost all the coverage about the various candidates, their opinions, policies and platforms is going in one ear and out the other. We know that the media wants us to think a certain way and view candidates in a particular light. After all, no one is without bias. Everyone has an agenda, right? But just like you have to sort through your class notes to find relevant information for an upcoming exam, you have to sort through messages to find the facts. You have to discern the “paid for” and “sponsored by” advertisements, the leading questions and the staged debates from what’s truly fair for all of the candidates.

Then again, what’s the point? The 2000 election was a prime example of how a supposedly democratic nation’s voting system can be turned on its head. If there are people that are dedicated enough to make it seem like dead people and their pets are keeping up with the elections, then what is one less vote from a Cal. State University student? Plus, sometimes it’s just plain difficult to get to the polls. The world doesn’t stop turning for one day every November. People still have lives with jobs, school and other concerns to keep them busy. One missed election surely isn’t the end of the world.

The California Secretary of State’s Elections Division’s website shows that Los Angeles County had more than 5 million people eligible to be registered as of Feb. 10. Only about 70 percent of these people were actually. You might think, “Well, that’s more than half! What’s wrong with that?” But the remaining 30 percent is equivalent to more than 1.75 million people. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “My classes are crowded!” or “It’s impossible to find parking here!” then think about this: there are about 34,500 students at CSUN as of the last Institutional Research survey done in Fall 2006. The entire student population of CSUN is only 1.9 percent of those 1.7 million people eligible, unregistered voters. If every student at CSUN were one of those unregistered, and every one of them voted, it would “only” be 1.9 percent of the total unregistered eligible voters, but that’s still more than 34,000 students. That’s a lot, and it can and does make a difference.

If all the media hype is confusing, then stop for a second and sort through it. Why should voting be any different from sorting out the lemons from the luxury sedans when you’re buying a car, when you’re studying for a class, or anything else for that matter?

Voting is a surprisingly quick and easy process if you give it a moment of thought: you hear about the candidates, the ballots, measures, or issues. You consider the ones most important to you and do research on them. Maybe you even take five minutes to go online and read the exact legal jargon that will be on the official ballot.

If you’re still confused, you do a bit more research. You talk to friends, family, professors and coworkers. You don’t have to say what your political affiliation is, or which direction you may or may not be leaning toward. But by making the attempt to understand, it shows you’re not apathetic. It means you can know that you voted on the right thing for you, because you looked into the issues before you walked into the polling station.

When you see the commercials for candidates or ballots, you can ignore them because you know who or what’s really behind them.

If you make the decision not to vote, you’re handing your power away. When your tax dollars are spent on something you don’t approve of or your elected representative does something you find unconscionable, if you didn’t vote, your complaints are meaningless. If everyone went walking around complaining, saying, “Someone should do something about this! This needs to be changed!” then nothing would ever get done and everyone would be unhappy. By casting a vote, you are saying “I want to make a change.”

It’s the smallest step you can take toward making a difference, whether it’s as “small” as the campus community or as large as the entire nation. Regardless of the ratio -one in 35,000 or one in 302 million- you’re taking five minutes out of one day every four years or so to say “I care. I can make a difference. My voice matters.” In the grand scheme of things, you probably spend more time sleeping, eating, or tying your shoes than you do taking the time to vote. Considering how little effort it really takes, why not just do it? What does anyone really have to lose by voting?

Election time shouldn’t remind you of high school, when people constantly flung insults toward the people they didn’t like or didn’t agree with, and spread rumors about them. You don’t have to be the kid in the classroom whose raised hand never gets noticed. Whether you’re voting for the next president or a proposition, you don’t have to be the person standing on the sidelines, wondering if what Hilary said about Rudy or what Obama said about Hilary is true.

You don’t have to be the person who hears about election results from a second- or third-hand source, too late to do anything about what very well might change your life forever. You can know what the facts are because you didn’t just let yourself believe what the media spewed out. You can sort the facts from the rumors because you’re not the gullible sort who is easily brainwashed.

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