Most people are probably beginning to sigh in relief. This evening signifies the end to one of the longer running presidential elections our nation has seen. Finally, months of campaign coverage and last minute attack ads will disappear from our televisions, to be replaced with commentary and analysis on one of the closest presidential elections in years. Before this day can truly end, however, there is one action that every citizen in this country should take: vote.
In the 1996 presidential election, only 49 percent of eligible voters exercised their right to vote. Less than half of the voting-age population felt it was worth their time to go out and make a difference. This is an unfortunate mindset that has captivated our people. Although pundits and political analysts will point to many reasons why voter turnout is so low, it really comes down to the lack of respect people have for our political processes. Americans take the idea of voting and democracy for granted. Contrast this with Yugoslavia’s recent presidential elections, where 70 percent of the population turned out to vote, oftentimes waiting for hours in lines that circled voting facilities. They understood the power of a vote and did not take it for granted.
Much of the rhetoric of elections is directed toward the elderly. This is easily explained by the fact that during every election, this segment of the population votes in higher numbers than all other age groups and vote for politicians pandering to their interests.
Students are easily forgotten in the shuffle of proposals and are not given the respect due because our voices are not loud enough to demand it. Among others, Gov. Jesse Ventura is hoping to reverse this trend during this election. With his tour to Midwestern high schools and colleges, we hope that more young adults will be motivated to go out in force and let their voices be heard.
After tonight’s political commentaries, election parties and celebrations and disappointments quiet down, our nation will turn to our newly selected leaders who will take into the new millennium. We must do everything in our power to ensure that good leaders are in charge.
We have this unique opportunity every few years to make our voice heard in the most direct way possible. It is easy to brush aside voting with excuses like: “I’m too busy” or “My vote won’t make a difference.” Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. A person’s voice does make a difference, and it is important to exercise your right to that voice today. Go out, vote your conscious and then sit back and relax, content in knowing that you have made a difference.