Well, it’s election time and many organizations such as Rock the Vote and HeadCount are encouraging everyone, especially young people like many of you, to get out and vote. Many of these organizations make the implication that it’s our civic duty as United States citizens to cast a ballot. Even celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Hayden Panettiere are taking time and encouraging young voters to get out and take part in this next election.
It’s great so many youths are beginning to realize the significance of voting. A bigger consortium of voters means more voices are being heard. However, there’s one little thing these organizations forget to tell people to do, and it’s probably the most significant part of voting: actually knowing what you are doing when you’re casting your vote and being well informed about who you are voting for and why you are marking your ballot for that candidate.
While more people are now voting, it raises the question if some or even all of these new voters really know all that much about the mysterious world of politics.
Do you realize that numerous Americans do not know who the vice president or the chief justice of the Supreme Court is? (In case you’re wondering it’s Dick Cheney and John Roberts, respectively)
Even a smaller number of Americans actually know the general platform of the party they affiliate with.
On ABC’s “20/20,” John Stossel asked young people basic government questions such as how many U.S. senators there are and what the court case Roe v. Wade was. Some got the answers correct, but most did not.
“There’s 51 states in the U.S.,” one young man said with poise. Another had the notion that Roe v. Wade was about the U.S. declaring bankruptcy.
Stossel then proceeded to do the same thing in Washington. This time, he showed people walking down the street pictures of candidates running for office as well as other individuals in government. Almost everyone knew Barack Obama and John McCain. Only half the people knew who Sarah Palin was, and even fewer knew Joe Biden. Almost no one knew who Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was.
Just like it would be a foolish decision to not research prices and dealerships before buying a car or to not explore prices before purchasing a house, it’s even worse to pick the individual that is going to be president without any previous information. However, this is how it seems a great deal of people want to vote nowadays.
Think about it. Do you actually know everything that your political party actually stands for?
If you saw and McCain or Obama’s standpoints, would you recognize them? A few of you may know, but I am willing to wager some people you know have no clue and are simply going to vote for either candidate because their friends tell them to, their family is voting for them, because they like the candidate’s smile or many other reasons I have heard how people are going to make up their mind on who will be the next president of the most powerful country in the world.
Why are we as Americans allowing ourselves to be told how to vote and acting so ignorant when we mark our ballots? Sure, it’s good to listen to someone to understand a political position better but it’s another factor to simply vote on what that person believes and not what you truly think.
All Americans, particularly young people like ourselves, need to step aside from our busy lives and truly find out what we are voting for and what candidates we support are going to do to improve this country, instead of taking someone else’s word for it.
Think about all the struggle and effort earlier Americans endured to get that ballot in your hands and give you a voice. Would you really want to make a mockery of their pains by making an uninformed, unknowledgeable decision?
We need to comprehend that simply voting is not fulfilling our civic duties. It is not only one’s civic duty to cast a ballot, but also to be well-versed on the consequences of that choice and generally be informed on who is managing our government. Democracy works best when those enfranchised are educated about the issues at hand.
Perhaps instead of the “Get Out The Vote” campaign, it ought to be “Get The Info, Then Vote”.
Michael Lauck is a freshman broadcast journalism major from Houston.