Oct 012008
Authors: By Kia Makarechi Daily Bruin

(UWIRE) Something about this election is different.

For one, it has been going on for well over a year. In this year, the political landscape has been muddled with little relevant information. Instead, we know factoids like how Sarah Palin’s daughter’s husband-to-be calls himself a redneck and likes hockey.

More importantly, however, voting is slowly morphing from the equivalent of the lazy man’s jury duty (a quick fix to the ever-pressing need to be patriotic) to a trendy priority.

We see it all around us: bumper stickers that range from the standard (“McCain ’08”) to the ironic (“Women for McCain”). The blogosphere has been electrified for more than a year — quacks, political die-hards, indie journalists and everyday Americans are all starting to care about this nation’s authority food chain.

For students, this newfound attention to the news could either be great or dreadful. If we get on this voting train, politicians might finally be forced to pay attention to students as a viable voting bloc.

They would have to actually pass legislation that helps us, instead of pathetic headline grabbers that do nothing — see “College Textbook Affordability and Transparency Act of 2007.”

Admittedly, voting can seem an act akin to picking up a wrapper you see on the street.

Sure, it is a nice thing to do, but is it really going to change anything? And why should you vote if you are in a state that has gone Democratic in the last four election cycles?

Because if we fail to show up, as we historically and statistically have, the rest of the nation will leave us in the dust of its group-specific legislation.

In other words, voting is not just about who you want to sit in the Oval Office for the next four years. It is about making sure that Medicare reform, corporate taxes and war are not the only issues that legislators and executives believe are important to the well-being of the American people. American politics run on a fairly simple premise: Politicians are desperate people. They need votes — millions of them — in order to win a national election.

As such, they say and do what they need to in order to gain those votes — and voters. Historically, young people have not really been voters.

The first of two simple steps to voting is voter registration. It’s ironic that young voters don’t vote as much, because they may be the group most targeted by registration drives. From Diddy to city hall, America is begging us to vote.

The point is: Register, and register soon.

Of course, the second step is even simpler. Show up — at school, at a library, nearly anywhere — and vote.

It should be said that young voter turnout, like so many other facets in this election, is certainly changing. In the primary elections, voter turnout for Democrats ages 17 to 29 increased by an average of nearly five percent compared to the 2004 primaries.

As it stands, young voters widely favor Democratic candidates. In 2006, young adults generally voted blue in elections for representatives (58 percent as opposed to 38 percent Republican), senators (60 percent to 33 percent) and governors (55 percent to 34 percent).

But what do these statistics mean to each individual student?

If you are a fan of Obama, vote to drive up the total number of young Americans who take part in democracy.

If you are a fan of McCain, vote to make sure your voice is not lost in the Democratic energy that has swept colleges nationwide. Voting must not be seen as merely a means to put a candidate in office.

It is a chance to have your voice heard, not because you push a button next to Obama or McCain, but because voting sends a message of engagement to politicians — a message we critically need to send.

If we do not pick up that metaphorical piece of trash, and we fail to cast our vote, we are resigning ourselves to further political neglect. Just ask any student struggling to pay for college, and they’ll tell you that this is an election we cannot afford to skip.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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