Wednesday, October 20, 2021
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Why voting really matters: Democracy necessitates fair representation at the polls

The 38 percent of eligible American voters who didn’t cast ballots in November 2008 took for granted a freedom elusive to many other countries.

This includes an alarming number of young adults. Only 49 percent of eligible voters ages 18-24 cast ballots in 2008—a high turnout year for young adults. It was still the lowest voter participation rate of any age group by far.

A majority of the world’s nations claim to have democratic elections, but in many of those countries, elections are a farce run by militaristic regimes for the sake of appearance.

With rights come responsibility, and many Americans are too cozy and sheltered to realize the freedoms and prosperity we have taken for granted aren’t guaranteed.

Apathy extends beyond the eligible voters who don’t cast ballots.

Those who do vote are often too apathetic—or “busy,” as they claim to be—to look for insight beyond the debates, media bites and smear campaigns.

How can voters make meaningful decisions if they are woefully uninformed?

How many voters take time to research candidates’ voting records? How many follow the news on a regular basis or pay attention to legislative changes and public policy issues?

Many voters show up to the polls oblivious of what is on the ballot. This ignorance extends far beyond obscure questions about retaining judges or changing the state constitution.

This is a travesty of democracy.Elections aren’t a football game or a reality TV show. The purpose of voting and political engagement isn’t to be entertained.

Until the apathetic voting age population starts voting in primary elections and demands better ideological representation, the general election outcome is going to be bland, incremental change.

Politicians lie, and whatever promises they actually fulfill will invariably fall short of the fantasy world of sweeping transformational change that single issues voters and partisan extremes hope to achieve.

Voters should hold politicians accountable, and when voters are out to lunch and campaigns are cut loose, free and fair elections are neither free nor fair.

Presidential campaign spending grew from $171 million in 1972 to $1.75 billion in 2008, and the 2012 election cycle is on track to become the costliest yet.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling knocked the teeth out of the Federal Election Commission, rendering impotent limits on money that corporations, unions and special interest groups are allowed to spend on electioneering communications that were established under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.

Citizens United shouldn’t have any effect on our democracy.

But it does.

Wealthy donors wouldn’t lavish billions of dollars in a single campaign cycle if they did not intend to sway election results or influence a politician’s voting record.

They are smart enough to realize that voters think they are being informed when they are being entertained with attack ads and misinformation.

The remedy to Citizens United and other attempts to compromise the integrity of democratic elections is high voter participation and a high level of political engagement.

It doesn’t matter whether any candidate matches one’s idealistic vision of the world. Seldom is one given the perfect choice. The art of decision making is choosing the best available alternative.

By not showing up and casting a ballot, you let other people make your choice.

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