Your vote counts

It is a mainstay of democracy; it gives people power in government. Yet the majority of Americans, particularly young people, do not exercise their right to vote.

Throughout the centuries this right has been part of the American dream. Groups have fought and died, challenged threats and violence and done everything possible to ensure suffrage to posterity. But many Americans today do not seem to appreciate these battles. Freedom is taken for granted, previous generations’ sacrifices are overlooked.

In the 2000 presidential election, only 49.3 percent of eligible voters participated. That election, the closest since 1947, came down to a few hundred votes, and less than half the country took part. The arguments of those who claim their vote does not matter are completely invalidated. In countries such as China, people struggle for fair elections, and in Third World nations, citizens’ lives and families are put in jeopardy merely by voting. Considering this, lack of participation in the United States is mind boggling.

Other free countries have resorted to instituting fines or penalties for non-voters, but the United States leaves it voluntary. As the ballots open for City Council and mayoral candidates in Minneapolis, it is important for students to take an active role in democracy and their community. The most pertinent election issues affect students just as much as other citizens, yet on average only 32 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds vote. tudents care when neighborhoods around the University become “quiet zones,” and when they receive excessive-noise tickets, but they disregard the fact that a certain Ward 2 City Council candidate is pushing for quiet neighborhoods. They could change these policies by simply casting their votes. Still, too many maintain that issues in Minneapolis government do not affect them.

Most students at the University will eventually seek affordable housing. But many do not realize how difficult this task can prove. Housing played a major role in this year’s mayoral race, and students’ future luck in house hunting could hinge on the elections. Students should recognize the significant democratic force they could play if they choose to vote. The University boasts nearly 50,000 students, and politicians will campaign on the issues facing students if they began voting consistently.

Local government representatives play a huge role in the University’s future, and students should assert their right to choose these representatives. Particularly in the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedies, as students don red, white and blue, wave American flags and exclaim their pride in the United States, they must also exercise their right to vote, illustrating what pride in their country really means. Voting is more than just expressing an opinion, voicing protest or acting as a responsible citizen. Voting is democracy’s sacrament.