Battle of the Ballots

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Two writers take different perspectives on voting

Don’t be left behind; you have the right to vote
Susie Bryan // Copy Editor
Respecting someone’s decision to not vote
Gabriele Hickman // Editor-in-Chief

Growing up, there was always the anticipation of that birthday, the day you became legal to participate in something very exciting for the first time. Your ID would finally reveal you were old enough for this rite of passage. That’s right; registering to vote!

I remember when I finally earned my first “I voted” sticker instead of having one of the elderly poll worker ladies give my mom an extra one for me when I was younger. Voting has always been a big deal to me, something to which I look forward. Sadly, this excitement and anticipation of bubble filling is not shared by the majority of college students. According to CNBC, only 38 percent of 18 to 24 year olds voted in the 2012 presidential election.

Why is this? Why is it that my generation, the generation that so badly wants to change society and make a difference and take charge of their future, does the exact opposite?

I believe that every person in this country should vote, especially that 18 to 24 age category. Now, I know you’ve probably heard this argument from your uncle or politically active coworker, but the first reason we should vote is that it is our American right to do so (cue the bald eagle and fireworks, cause ‘Merica!). But in all seriousness, thousands upon thousands of American men and women have died over the last 240 years to give us this right. Millions around the world are at the mercy of their oppressive governments (yes, oppressive communist and socialist governments still exist in 2016) and would do anything for the amazing right to vote. Stewardship is what you do with what you have. Don’t waste this opportunity by standing idly.

Voting is also how things get done in America. Pretty basic idea, right? Think of it this way: if you don’t vote for what you believe in, somebody else will vote for what they believe in and will have made that choice for you. The minority opinion will always have a voice; that’s how our system is set up. So if you want your voice heard, vote. Otherwise, you let people who don’t agree with you choose our leaders and pass our laws.

Now as much as I think everybody should vote, I understand that everyone isn’t as informed as I am about politics and everyone doesn’t agree with me on every issue. And that’s ok. That is what makes America so great; we can disagree and still get along. Maybe I am not objectively right on my stance of issues, but I would rather vote for my beliefs and convictions than do nothing about it.

And by the way, every vote does count. Two years ago, Jay Fant won the Republican nomination for the Florida House of Representatives by two votes. Literally, two more people decided to make their voice heard and vote for Fant rather than for Paul Renner.

The Florida Presidential Primary is on March 15. Over the next few days, I ask you to seriously consider voting and who you may vote for. Take 10 minutes. Just 10 minutes a day to look at news coverage, read the candidates’ stances on issues, and think about where you stand. Read about what socialism really is, the details about Benghazi, what the Gang of Eight bill was, eminent domain, conservatism, liberalism, and what it means to be a constitutionalist.

This election will impact the future of our country in a way that no other election has. You owe it to yourself, your country, and any future children you may have to take a little time and educate yourself and vote. I hope to see you at the polls. Metaphorically of course; my voting precinct is on the other side of town, but you know what I mean.

After my two-year-old brother spent an entire episode of Property Brothers begging for juice, we filled his cup with water and handed it to him.

“Here. Juice of the earth.”

This kid drank the whole thing because he didn’t know the difference.

Somewhere in my 22 years of living I gained knowledge of the distinction between juice and water, but these 22 years have not granted me knowledge of everything. I still spend much of my time accepting pseudo-realities. I am my two-year-old brother, living in Plato’s allegory of the cave, accepting the shadows on the wall as the fullness of my environment. I am Hamlet, stabbing Polonius behind the curtain, thinking he is the king. Like the Pulitzer-Prize winning writer, Walter Lippmann suggests, I live in one world, but think and feel in different ones.

And for this reason, I do not vote.

When I tell people that I don’t vote, I’m consistently met with unfair claims of my concern for our country. I’m called names, given history reports, grouped into an apathetic generation, all reactions that I have yet to push back on until today.

Nonvoters make up a significant portion of our demographic. Nonvoters are everywhere. We’re in your staff meetings, your classes, and your favorite coffee shops. We’re engaging with you about what Donald Trump said in the last debate, what we think about partisan ties, and how we feel about the political atmosphere. But we’re not voting. We don’t vote for reasons that are more complicated than our apathy, cynicism, or lack of information on the candidates.

I have a complex relationship with the political process because it often asks me to see the world in full detail. I have to pretend for a moment that the world I see is the true reality. I have to forget about all of the filters, opinions, emotions, and stories that the facts are filtering through. I have to think on behalf of communities I’m not a part of, hoping that I make the best decision for them. I take voting seriously, and I do not feel confident in my ability to see the world in pure truth, to think about what’s best for people I have yet to listen to, and to understand the social and economic ramifications of our leader’s decisions. I have yet to make the distinction between political juice and political water.

It’s okay to admit that you don’t know what’s best for our country. It’s okay to not know where you stand on an issue. It’s okay to know where you stand on an issue, but not know if where you stand benefits more than your community. It’s okay to not vote.

I have immense respect for voters. At some point, we do have to respond to our reality, even if it’s not the true one, and that is what voters do. Though voters may have the same concerns that I do, many of them still take the time to educate themselves the best they can and make a decision that they believe is best for our country. Voters bring issues out of the shadows and expect more from our country. That takes boldness. That takes fervor.

But I have respect for nonvoters, too. We don’t want to harm someone with our vote. We want to make sure before we vote that we have the knowledge we need, and so far we haven’t found it. We acknowledge that our perceptions of the world may not be the best for our country, and so we work with nonvoters and voters to build start-ups, to volunteer, and to listen to our communities until we get closer to understanding what’s best. That takes boldness. That takes fervor.