Success and tenacity go hand in hand.
Dave Cunningham / October 29, 2008
Will they do it this time? Will they vote? Each presidential election cycle for the past thirty years, we’ve heard about how young people are influencing the campaign. Then there are projections, prognostications and predictions of their influence on the outcome of the vote. With Election Day passed and the results tallied what did we find? We learned that once again, they kids didn’t vote. They had reasons, of course; I had to work that day / I didn’t feel well / overslept / car broke down / too long a line / out of town / had to study / my vote doesn’t make a difference. I could go on.
This time, it will be different, so I am told by my younger peeps. I hope they’re right. I hope they turn out in record numbers. But I have my doubts.
A few weeks ago, the father of a college freshman in New York picked up an absentee ballot. He completed it and mailed it to her. He included a stamped envelope in which she could mail the application after signing it. Meanwhile, he has reminded her in telephone calls and text messages several times. Yesterday, she said she was going to get to it. Really? Others have told me similar stories.
I have a young friend who had never voted. I drove her to City Hall to get her registered and apply for an absentee ballot. Since she had not received it after a month, I drove her to City Hall again to pick up another ballot. Last night she texted me to say that she might not vote because she doesn’t like any of the choices.
These are isolated incidents and hardly significant as a sampling of the nation. But from where I sit, this election is sizing up to be the same as those in the past, big hopes of big participation of young voters, followed by a disappointing turnout. We’ll know on November 5th.
We’ll wring our hands and discuss it ad nauseam. We’ll wonder why the turnout was so low. If news days are slow, we’ll be treated to television interviews of college students and others explaining why. The conclusion will be the same. Young people are enthusiastic in their opinions, yet, they don’t show up to vote.
Someone once said to me that for the average citizen, which is most of us, there are two ways that we can directly participate in our government. We can serve on a jury and we can vote. Yes, we can try to influence our elected officials by writing letters and petitions. We can attend political forums to make our voices heard. These are important and I don’t minimize their significance. But our opportunity to directly influence the political process comes only once each year on Election Day.
But, let’s not stop with our younger citizens. The bigger disappointment is that about fifty percent of Americans of all ages neglect to go to the polls. We live in a country that is the envy of many others because of our freedoms. Who can forget the elections in Iraq a couple years ago? We saw the citizenry turn out to exercise their right, some facing threat of physical violence. I remember the pictures of proud voters holding up their purple-inked thumbs, a sign that they voted. It was inspiring.
As we wind up the year 2008, there are big challenges ahead for Americans. They include wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a plummeting economy, rising unemployment, and thousands of us without healthcare insurance. There is good reason for us to want to be heard on these issues. We have the power to get what we want. So let’s make this the year that we beat the records of the past and exercise our right to vote.