I got my absentee ballot and my vote has been cast via Australia Post. It’s weird that I am participating in my first presidential election overseas, but I really liked getting my ballot. I could sit down, look up everyone on it on the internet and really go through the opinion questions to make sure I understood what I was being asked. If it is true that you don’t ever need a really good reason to have an absentee ballot, I might vote absentee all the time. It’s too high pressure to go into the polling place and have people waiting their turn behind you etc.
There was an interesting article on Newsweek directed at young people. Everyone knows that in the US, young people vote the least out of all the voter groups in the country. It’s a problem because it sends the message that we don’t care. I think that if you asked a non-voting person in my age group if this is true, they would probably deny it. I think that people in my age category seem to think they have their own reasons for not voting. I’ve heard my friends say "Oh, well I don’t know enough about it to make an informed decision." That’s bull in my opinion and perhaps it IS code for saying they don’t care, but I think it’s more laziness. I can’t claim to have an overwhelming understanding of all of the election issues, but there are certainly plenty of opportunities to find out something about the issues in order to make a decision of your own. What in the world is the internet for if not to aid in the obtaining of information?! Newspapers are entirely online now. It costs nothing to go read. So there is no excuse for not knowing enough–go find out.
Some people say that they don’t like any of the candidates. I don’t think that is a valid reason either. First of all, if you did not cast a vote in the primaries, you have no right to complain about the candidates chosen by the people who did vote. Secondly, no one is asking you to vote for the knight in shining armor who will gallop in on some noble steed and flawlessly save the country in distress. If you’re waiting for a candidate of which you approve 100%, you’re going to find that you’ll be waiting a long time. No, this is not what the responsibility of voting entails. When you vote you’re being asked, of the people who were chosen to run, who would make the best president, senator, sheriff, or whatever it is you happen to be voting for? Stop waiting, stop complaining and start voting even if it is merely for the lesser of two evils. Most of the time, politics does not allow for anything more.
You know how the debate, especially in recent elections, has been over who is going to appeal most to the Evangelical Christian vote in the US? That is because they have a tremendous influence in the polls. The older population in the US also has a very high voting rate. Guess what! If the 18-25 demographic influenced the polls as much as the Evangelical Christians do, politicians would start bending over backwards to make us happy. They would start to work on policies that will attract us to their side. You know how they say "the children are the future?" Guess what, that’s us! WE are the children and, apparently, we are the future, so by the transitive property (go 9th grade math!) if politicians are working to make 18-25 year olds happy, then they’re also working for a better future. We are the ones who are going to live to see the long-term consequences of their actions. We’re the ones who are going to see if any of the theoretical solutions to world problems pay out in the end. The people who make them, and the people who vote for them are going to be long gone by the time we are their age and we are going to be stuck scratching our heads, wondering what they were thinking because we were too busy not paying attention now.
It’s going to take time and someone has to start the ball rolling. We have to start voting in order to build up influence. It’s not going to happen all at once and it’s time to acknowledge that we can make a difference if we’re patient enough to make the first move. I will be able to vote in this age bracket only one more time in my life. The next presidential election will happen when I am 25 years old, so I’ll help us out one more time, and also in the non-presidential elections in the interim, but I can’t do it by myself. It’s going to take everyone voting to get the numbers up.
So let’s stop allowing people to think we don’t care because we obviously DO. When you look at your paycheck and heave a sigh because the total amount you earned is diminished by taxes and social security; when you stop at a gas station and heave a sigh because the price of gas just dealt a fatal blow to your bank account; when you heave a sigh because you have to pay for printing at your university now because of cuts in funding for higher education; when you pop a blood vessel sitting in traffic because of that highway construction that seems to be taking for ever; when you check out at the grocery store and wonder how you’re spending so much money on fruit, you are caring. Whether you think things are going well and would like that to continue, or whether you want a radical change in the operation of our country, you care about the things you do every day, therefore you should care to vote.
Here in Australia, voting is mandatory. If you don’t show up to vote, you are required to pay a fine. You can waltz into the polling place as an Australian citizen, draw a picture on your ballot and hand it in, but you have to show up. We, US citizens, are given a choice, and of course, that means that along with the right to vote, we also have the right not to vote, but if you don’t vote, nobody will know about it. It’s not like a silent protest where the world around you notices your refusal to speak and wonders why. By not voting you are making no statement because it is as if you are not there at all. By not voting you allow the rest of the voting public to dictate the rules in which you could have had a say, but you declined to influence. If you do not vote, you cannot complain.
I suppose this entry isn’t about study abroad, and it’s not about Australia. But having studied here and in Spain in 2008, most historic of political and economic years in a long time, it has become even more apparent how much the United States affects the rest of the world. But the world looks on helplessly, unable to influence the outcome of this election, in which they have a vested interest, while we individual US citizens actually have the chance to have our say. This election is important to me and I have voted for the people that I believe will do their jobs the best. Whether I am on the winning or losing side of this election, at least I have said my piece.