A vote of confidence
Students too often cite a false sense or knowledge or ignorance as an excuse not to vote
Over the last couple months it is likely you saw students standing around Grounds trying to register voters. With political disinterest common among the 18 to 20 year old demographic, these students’ initiative to become part of the political process made me regain hope for our country.
According to the United States Census Bureau, roughly half the 18 to 20 year old population registered for the 2008 election and an even lower percentage actually voted. This is why seeing a student registering others students is so impressive to me. It makes me think that our demographic is starting to care after all. Yet, I still find myself dubious that the newly registered voters will actually turn out on Election Day.
It is all too common in modern society to hear recently of-age voters talking about how they “refuse to vote in this election” or “don’t really care” about the election. This frustrates me to no end. Turning 18 is a huge milestone for U.S. citizens, and it marks our constitutional right to begin voting. We can make decisions regarding the leaders of our country, and our voices count now. Many teenagers in the 18 to 20 year old demographic, though, seem to think their voices do not count and therefore are planning on not participating in this election.
This strange phenomenon of disinterested, newly of-age voters can be attributed to low political efficacy and also lack of political knowledge. When a person has little faith in his government and believes his participation will not make an impact, this low political efficacy results in low voter turnout. I have heard many students utter the words “my vote doesn’t count,” proving just how doubtful they are of the significance of their role in the political process. However, they are wrong. Our voices are all important and what we say and how we vote is essential to the development of our country. By going to rallies and sharing our opinions we are able to participate in the election and to help ourselves and others become more knowledgeable. Knowledge is another reason our age demographic does not vote, with problems arising from both a lack of knowledge and also a false sense of knowledge. A false sense of knowledge is something that plagues college students and also other demographics. This type of knowledge stems from a belief that we know plenty about politics and the candidates’ stances and tend to think of ourselves as above the political process. I have heard people say that they are very informed and do not agree with either party platform and as a result are not voting. While these types of people are essentially making an “informed” decision by deciding not to vote, it seems irrational to say you do not believe in either party’s platform. Although there may be some things in both platforms that you disagree with, one of those candidates is ultimately going to be your president, so it is better to vote for the one who you agree with more.
The second form of knowledge is a lack of knowledge, where we feel we do not know anything about politics and therefore do not think we should vote. It seems rational not to vote if you are uninformed, but there is no excuse to be uninformed. Disinterest and lack of knowledge is largely a result of lack of participation, therefore it is incredibly important that we newly of-age voters become a part of the political process and learn about it whether by watching the news or reading the newspaper. It is so easy to fall victim to dissension where voting is a turnoff because you either do not think it matters or you just do not know enough about it, but if our 18 to 20 year old demographic took the time to educate itself, it would realize that every vote really does count.
A couple of weeks ago I sat down to watch the vice presidential debate, and for a seemingly electorally unimportant event, the debate was quite insightful and entertaining. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan talk about important issues our country is facing today. I also laughed at inappropriate times due to Biden’s toothy smirk and words like “malarkey” being used. But I digress. The debate overall was informative, and it was incredibly easy to take a couple hours out of my night to watch it. There is no excuse to be uninformed with televisions and newspapers so easily accessible here at the University. So I implore all of you 18 year olds to watch the news and read the newspaper and learn a little about the candidates. Make an informed decision and feel good about who you vote for, and do not throw away your constitutional right to vote. I highly discourage not voting because in three years, when we are all looking for jobs, you will have wished you took the time to have learned about the candidates and voted accordingly.
_Meredith Berger’s column normally appears Mondays in The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at