Five-hundred thirty-seven votes. That was the difference between Al Gore and George Bush in Florida in 2000.If 538 people in a state of 16 million had voted for Al Gore who had not voted, the United States would not have invaded Iraq. The tax cuts that handed the richest of the rich millions of dollars would not have been passed. We would have had the biggest environmental advocate in the world as our President, not a Texas oilman who doesn't believe in global warming.On Nov. 4, we have the opportunity to vote for the President of the United States and numerous other national and local elected officials. For some, this is their first time voting for President. For others, their first time to vote, period. The chance to cast your vote in support of your preferred candidate is an invaluable opportunity to make your voice heard. No system of government is perfect; there are numerous flaws in our democratic system of government, and I am completely willing to admit that. However, the right to vote is one of the most treasured components of our political system, and we should take advantage of it.

Even if you are not interested in "Politics," it impacts you directly: 4,000 dead American soldiers in Iraq, skyrocketing college tuition, unaffordable healthcare for millions, a sputtering economy, the list goes on. These are real issues that have profound effects on every American.

Everybody has heard the argument that voting is our "civic duty." While a bit broad, this argument has some validity. Our government is set up in such a way as to require a participatory populace. If you chose not to vote, you forfeit one of the most effective methods of determining national and state and municipal policy. The nationwide voter turnout in 2000 of 54.7 percent was just .5 percent higher than the record low recorded in 1996. Reasons for not voting in 2000 included: "too busy" (20.9 percent), not interested (12.2 percent), out of town (10.2 percent).

Most people only think of voting in terms of casting a vote for a certain candidate. When voting, however, you don't just vote for candidates for office; you can also vote on referendums and state constitutional amendments. For instance, if issues concerning clean drinking water, environmental conservation, and preserving Minnesota's cultural legacies, you can vote to directly impact these issues this November. If you're voting in your home state, chances are you will have the opportunity to vote for these issues and more, including pro-choice issues, gay marriage and a myriad of other social issues. These referendums will directly impact the community and you, whether or not you choose to vote.

Not voting does not stop decisions from being made in Washington. Elected officials will continue to make decisions whether you vote or not, and those decisions affect you whether you vote or not. Not voting will not force a radical change in the structure of American government. Officials who are elected by those who vote are not responsible to those who do not. They have no incentive to listen to individuals who refuse to participate in the electoral system.

Macalester's polling place is literally across the street. It takes 45 seconds to fill out the ballot. It's easy.

Continue Reading

on The Mac Weekly

Featured