As the election nears, one cannot possibly walk around campus without being asked, “Have you registered to vote?” While frustrating to students like myself, who registered back in Colorado years ago, I can appreciate the efforts of these volunteers. Nobody should take the right to vote for granted because anyone with a basic knowledge of U.S. history knows that this was not always such a universally held privilege.
Although, I would argue that just as important as mobilizing eligible voters, is educating this same electoral group. I am probably biased as a Political Science major who constantly follows current events, but it pains me to hear people voting for a candidate or an issue because their parents or friends are doing so. In 2008, my sister, recently legal at 18 years old, decided that she loved Presidential nominee Barack Obama. Everyone eligible to vote in my household is an independent, so this did not necessarily conflict with anyone’s views on a party basis. However, her support intrigued me, as she had never once taken any sort of interest in politics. Her lack of a logical explanation, coupled with her failure to understand any of the pressing issues (Iraq, the economy, and the financial crisis) suggested that she found rationale in her opinion elsewhere. Finally she admitted to me that her friend gave her an Obama pin, and she would be voting for him.
Obviously her ridiculous justification infuriated me, sparking one of many heated discussions. Eventually I gave up on the argument, realizing that we simply were not going to see eye-to-eye on this issue. In retrospect this disagreement was only a minor hiccup in our relationship, but it clearly had more lasting effects with her. As this election approached, she texted me wondering the best places to obtain unbiased information relating to both the candidates, as well as the issues they addressed. I couldn’t contain my excitement, that she made the transition into the category of an educated voter. Obviously I may have more influence on my sister because of our close relationship, but the overarching ideal should not be lost on others. While encouraging others to vote, this nation needs to focus on achieving a higher level of voter knowledge.