Voting is a privelege, not a right

Why don’t University of San Diego students vote? Is our generation, as a whole, jaded or just misinformed?


You would be forgiven if you said the most exciting part of this fall was watching another Giants World Series victory or picking up the new Taylor Swift album.

Along with Halloween, those seem to be two of the only things going on at this time of year that capture the attention of young Americans, leaving the elections one of last things on their minds.

The first Tuesday of November has come and gone with little more than a whisper and, sadly, the young voters of America did what many expected, they stayed home.

Because the 2014 midterm elections will have such a profound impact on our country in the coming two years, it is a shame that our nation’s youth did not speak up.

A wave of red swept the country with the Republicans gaining the majority of the Senate for the first time since 2006, taking over several states formerly held by Democratic governors and keeping a firm grasp on the House. There has been a huge shift in Washington, D.C., yet not many young people seem to care.

University of San Diego houses a large group of highly educated individuals, many of whom were able to participate in the elections for their first or second time.

Professors across campus pushed their students to vote, dropping reminders via e-mail and making announcements in class.

Bravo to those of you who took heed and voted. Junior Michelle Cuthbert voted for a deeper reason.

“I voted not just to complete my civic duty but to execute the rights that, as an African- American woman, I wouldn’t have had that long ago,” Cuthbert said.

But to those of you who did not vote, why not? Out-of-state students face obvious hurdles.

Junior Mahlet Solomon usually sends an absentee ballot home to Washington. But this year, she was not directly effected and being removed from the initiatives on the ballot led her to abstain rather than cast an uniformed vote.

There are a number of understandable reasons for not voting, but I think the true underlying cause is frustration with the U.S. political system. More than most, I bang my head against the wall wondering what our representatives are doing to actually help the people of this country.

Gallup polls show there is currently a 14 percent approval rating of Congress, yet there was an 85 percent retention rate in 2010 and 90 percent in 2012. If we are so dissatisfied, why aren’t we doing more about it?

One of the primary problems is that the youth of America is not aware that it is their civic duty to vote. Several professors at USD blame the lack of civics classes at the middle and high school levels for the poor participation when voters become eligible. When we grow up with a gap in our education, right when our understanding of political participation is supposed to form, it is no wonder that only 5.2 million ballots were cast in California, as reported by Al-Jazeera America.

To simplify, only 21 percent of the eligible voting population cast its vote this year.

By contrast, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance reported that over 66 percent of the population came out to vote in India’s general elections this spring, despite the fact that it is not mandatory.

Have we become jaded by our vast political freedoms? In a newer democracy such as India’s, do they simply appreciate the ability to participate more than we do?

I wouldn’t say that this is necessarily the case, but I would argue it is easy to get lost in the political ads clogging TV commercials, radio airwaves and website banners.

Quick, tell me: What was Proposition 1, 2 or 46 about? While most of us couldn’t give a detailed description of these propositions, I am sure many of us could say which side of the aisle the ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote would favor.

Advertisements should not be the only resource we use to help determine how we vote, and partisan politics should be left at the door when deciding what is best for our country.

There might be a gap in our civics education, but as a well-educated community it is on us to look beyond the political ads and campaigns and put thought into how we choose to vote.

In this glorious age of information, a quick search on the internet can help us understand what a candidate or ballot proposition actually represents.

By implementing some of the critical thinking we are taught at this university, we can look beyond what the ‘Red’ or ‘Blue’ vote is supposed to be and make the decision for ourselves.

Do not let apathy settle in. Two years may seem far away, but before you know it, your TV will be swallowed with commercials about why Hillary Clinton is or isn’t the future of this country.

When this happens, look beyond the campaigns and try to understand the policies the candidates stand on.

It is easy to listen to comedians turned political activists such as Russell Brand who asserts that voting is useless. He champions democratic ideals and is politically active but talks down the importance of our biggest tool to bring about change.

Please, do not be like Brand. Appreciate him for his comedy and wonderful locks, but make sure, come fall of 2016, when the Giants are winning another World Series, that you cast a well-informed ballot.

Maybe, just maybe, we can bump up that 21 percent turnout and show that this is still the home of democracy.