During the recent midterm elections, voter turnout once again became voter “tune-out” as 60 percent of eligible voters stayed home and misguidedly contributed to a historic legacy of democratic “couch potato-ism.”
Most Americans did not make it to the local polling place because of various personal reasons, few of them valid. While voter apathy threatens to further undermine American democracy, we should ask ourseleves- why do so few people care?
There is a great disconnect in politics between reality and people’s perception of it. It is especially apparent among young voters, who often believe that their vote does not count. This is a valid concern because of the electoral vote, a winner-takes-all system in which the smaller half of voters is left without political representation.
But as we understand the limits of our opportunity to participate in democratic elections, which some of us do every couple of years, we cannot afford to thrown away the little input that we do have.
The American political system needs a big shake-up. Politics, according to the two-party system, does not accurately reflect the diversity of opinions that people have. Furthermore, the people deserve elections that represent more than a political pageant between a candidate Blue, a pseudo-liberal with a Colgate smile, and a candidate Red, a “compassionate” conservative with a tight-lipped smirk.
With political campaigns saturated with contribution money, filled with slanderous political ads instead of meaningful issue debates, and an endless array of underhanded tricks to discredit the opponent, it is not surprising that many voters are turned off by politics.
Although the overall voter turnout was the highest among midterm elections since 1982, the percentage of eligible voters who turned out, a mere 40.4 percent, was still far below what it should have been considering how tumultuous these times are.
Midterm elections usually have lower voter turnout rates than in presidential elections, which also have low participation. War, corruption, the eroding of constitutional legal rights, and legalized torture are a few reasons why people should care. But instead, our world is a bubble and therefore gas prices are the main concern. Do low gas prices make for low voter turnout rates?
Some aspects of the electoral process could be improved to increase voter participation. Election Day should be moved to Sunday, which is a no-brainer that most European countries have already figured out. Polling places should be equipped with computers to allow for same-day voter registration. Many people are ready to cast their votes online and should be given that option.
The government could even offer citizens some kind of incentive if they vote. For example, people might feel encouraged to vote if they got to choose between a sandwich, a free movie pass or a $5 deduction on their car tax.
Instead of readily taking away people’s right to vote, which is done at a world-leading rate to a growing population of about 4 million convicted felons, the objective should be to increase the voting population.
The marriage of politics and money becomes apparent every time corporations and special interest groups bet their money on what they hope will be the winning horse. The voters, who are reduced to spectators in this political horse race, are led to believe that it is the candidates, as opposed to their politics, that matter.
Less than 100 years ago, our foremothers were demanding the right to vote. Since then a troubling sense of complacency has diminished political awareness and replaced the energy of political grassroots movements. Many Americans approach democracy with a great big yawn.
People should care about politics for the simplest reasons; it is their business because it affects every aspect of their lives. CSUN students in a last week’s Associated Student election, decided to reject two proposals to raise student fees. Despite the miniscule voter turnout of less than 5 percent, some students showed that there is no disconnect between reality and politics.
If people stop caring about politics, they resign their chances to make the world a better place. Voting is a civil right but should also be a civil duty.