“Your Voice, Your Vote: Exercise Your Right!”

by Fallon Godwin-Butler

Why should I bother to vote? I’m an adult, but I belong to that infamous 18-24 year old age group that politicians and their campaign gurus ignore. Politicians and their campaign consultants must cater to groups that have the highest gross statistical numbers of active voters. Therefore, it is apparent when considering the statistics our 18-24 year old age group is being largely left behind in the political world because we do not believe in political efficacy, and what our vote can do for this country.

The question many ask is what is political efficacy? Political efficacy is the belief that individual political action will have an effect on the political process. Sadly, it seems that many of the 18-24 year old people in this country have forgotten that the 26th Amendment gave them the right to vote.

Looking at statistics provided by the U.S. Census Bureau from the 2008 elections, the aforementioned age group has a total population of 25,791,000 U.S. Citizens. Of those citizens, 15,082,000 registered to vote and only 12,515,000 voted. Almost, 26 million voices could have been heard in the 2008 elections, but only 48.5 percent voted and 51.5 percent (approximately 13,275,000 people) did not vote.

Why is there a major discrepancy in these numbers? We are the best and the brightest that our generation has to offer.  However, no amendments, bills, nor riders are geared toward our age group because we do not hold the greater percentage of votes. That is due to the fact that when politicians consider their voters, they look to 45-64 year old individuals who comprise 74.9 percent of the population registered, and 69.2 percent who vote.

It is time that our generation became the movers and the shakers. We should not be those who believe our vote means nothing, because it does. Our generation must take the initiative to learn the platforms of these candidates. We must listen to more than the sound bites from the local news, but instead watch the presidential debates. The news media are known for the processes of framing and gate keeping. Gate keeping is when a news service determines what will be covered, whereas framing sets the political agenda to shape public opinion. Thus, they slant candidates to fill their political aspirations and only the news they want to publish is put through. However, we must not turn away from these mass communications mediums, but rather see their shortcomings, keep it all in perspective, and make a personal and impactful decision when it is time to vote.

Soon the primaries will be over and the Republicans will have their candidate on August 27, 2012. After this, the debates between President Obama (the incumbent) and the Republican nominee will begin.

Remember that if we make the personal choice to register as an independent rather than as a Democrat or Republican, we will not be able to vote in the primary.  The primary is where each party’s members vote to select their candidate to run for president.  However, even if you register as an independent, paying attention to the primaries offers a wonderful opportunity to learn about each candidate and decide what qualities you want our president to possess. Once the true campaign starts, delve into the intricate process of Political Action Committees (PAC’s), war chests, and, essentially, the world of politics. It is your job as a voter to know the candidate’s ethics, background, and more importantly, his or her platform and what they have to offer this country.

As the next generation, we should be well educated in political affairs so we can begin to prove to the world that we are tomorrow’s leaders, but ready to make momentous decisions today.

This column will help illuminate the political process for you so that you find yourself knowledgeable and qualified to make an educated vote. Next time you begin to think your vote does not count, remember your principles, remember that there are people in Third World Countries who cannot fight for what they believe in and do not have the right to vote. Every single vote matters–it is your right. This country was founded on freedom, and part of this freedom is allowing all citizens to vote to gain their own liberties. After all, Patrick Henry said, “…give me liberty, or give me death!” Vote for those who founded this country on principles that formed a “more perfect union,” a democracy where the people have a choice.