We cannot repeat voting errors
I am, among many things, a fairly liberal Democrat. I feel that anyone who has read one of my past columns would clearly be able to connect the dots and reach that conclusion. I have a certain view of the world, of America and of the state. If presented with new information, I have no problem with altering my view to align itself best with the facts at hand. There are many like me in this country, especially at a fairly liberal state school like the University. However, there is one thing that sets me apart from people who feel as strongly as I do in the realm of politics.
I didn't vote.
Yes, I'm fully aware that this makes me a tacit hypocrite by writing so much about the power of social change but being too lazy to partake in it. In fact, I am not even registered to vote in New Brunswick. I'm registered in Camden County, where I live when not at school. Did I fill out an absentee ballot? Of course not. And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, I'm actually in the majority of people my age.
In the United States, the supposed bastion of democracy, only 48.5 percent of 18-24 year olds vote in the election. Only 58.5 percent of the population at that age is even registered to vote. This is a drastic drop from all other age demographics, where the voter turnout and registration rate are at least 10 percent higher in every age demographic. It's not an uncommon phenomenon. In fact, it's not even a phenomenon — it's commonplace.
To start, there are complete gaps in voter turnout among races: 66.1 percent, 64.7 percent, 49.9 percent, and 47.6 percent represented total voter turnout (age 18 and over, men and women) respectively in white, black, Hispanic and Asian voters. What accounts for the sizable gap?
Most notably, black voters are beginning to close the fabled white-black voting gap, with their respective populations only separated by 1.4 percent turnout. However, less than half of Hispanic and Asian Americans turn out to vote. This is most likely due to the lack of voter mobility, the reluctance of campaigning to said minorities and some mildly racist barriers across the land. Many immigrant or first-generation Hispanics and Asians lack the familiarity with the American voting system, and many are unable to vote based on wildly unfair work schedules.
Another reason for low minority turnout is the lack of addressing needs by the very people running for office. Many Congressional candidates waste no time appealing to minority voters — barring an occasional photo opportunity — for one good reason: They don't vote. It becomes a cyclical problem. If a senator has to appeal to a large amount of people, he or she would be most logical to not appeal to minorities. It sounds Draconian and Machiavellian, but it is true — in 2009, Black and non-Hispanic white Americans made up exactly 78 percent of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If less than half of the remaining 22 percent of the population doesn't even bother voting, what's the use in appealing to them? The lack of attention from the people in Congress thereby is conducive to even lower voter turnout in minorities, who have no desire to vote for predominantly white men who have no interest in minorities' affairs.
This is compounded by the fact that many voting districts, despite being forced to by the Voting Rights Act, had English-only ballots until this decade. Many Republican candidates even include in their platform that all ballots in the nation should be cast in English only. This is all despite the fact that English is not the official language of the United States. In fact, the United States has no official language in its Constitution. Were these xenophobic Congressmen and women to follow the rule of "speak the language of the land," we'd all be speaking Cherokee or Algonquin right now.
While the racial barriers involved with the voting process are numerous and difficult to remedy, it does not explain the root of this article and the explanation behind the also-staggering age gap in voting. It doesn't begin to explain why I, as an educated white male in 20th-century America (which is significant only statistically, not qualitatively) did not go out and vote today. The reasons?
Apathy and overload. Most Americans aged 18-24 are able to sum up their political views with one word, usually "Democrat" or "Republican." When asked to expand on that, there is normally a few words regarding the general stances of the party but nothing more. The fact remains that most young Americans, despite having the power to have their voice be heard, remain unenlightened about the political climate and social issues regarding the nation. It takes an enormous movement, as was shown by the Obama campaign, for young and minority voters to be mobilized. When it comes to procedural policy, most young people could care less. Each day we 18-24 year-olds, who spend the most time exposed to popular media, are bombarded with empty, misleading and attacking political ads that sour the political process and the beauty of democracy. The American political machine has created disgust in voters and discouraged the young and the minorities — those who should be appealed to the most — from taking part. Unless the apathetically democratic like myself begin to make that change, this nation will be doomed to repeat its voting errors of the past.
Cody Gorman is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science.
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