Seniors should be excited to vote, Neumann says

Rahm Emanuel celebrates his victory in the Chicago, Illinois, mayoral election at a Near West Side plumbers union hall on Tuesday, February 22, 2011. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/MCT)
Rebecca Neumann
Entertainment Editor

As you may or may not know, May 14 is an election day. It is not a national or state election, but it is still important for all seniors to take part in it.

There is not a specific cause to vote for, and the outcome will not affect seniors that much: most seniors will be away at college in the fall, so many won’t even feel the effects of their vote. But the reason voting now is so vital is it starts a habit that will continue with us for decades to come.

Voter turnout is becoming lower and lower, especially among 18 to 21 year olds. The 26th Amendment, which sets 18 as the voting age, is the least used amendment in the U.S. Constitution. It was enacted to encourage voting, but has had no significant effect in recent years.

For democracy to work, people must have civic participation. Citizens must vote for their representatives. If this does not happen, policy will not be made that favors those who do not vote.

This may all seem very far away for mere 18 year olds, but as soon as you hit that magical age, you have a lot of power. Gone are the days of “No one cares what I think” and “It doesn’t matter what I do, I can’t change anything” because as soon as we renew our drivers’ license, we can be registered to vote.

As soon as that happens, we instantly have power. We don’t decide the rules, but we can pick the people who make the rules. Instead of complaining the government does too much or not enough, we can try to change the way it works. There are several courses of action that could be taken— voting is the simplest and the easiest.

The recent uprisings in the Middle East are great examples of the power of democracy. The Tunisians and Egyptians fought (literally and virtually) for weeks for the rights that most Americans take for granted. They wanted to vote because their government was not representing them, but we don’t have that problem – all we have to do is vote to change our representation. We already have what they so desperately want, what they’ve been dying for, but we don’t use it wisely.

And, of course, it will always take more than one vote — true, one measly vote doesn’t change the tide of an election. But if you get involved in campaigns, attend rallies or protest for a cause, then you are taking the actions that really effect legislation: you are affecting public opinion.

So, 18-year-old seniors, check “yes” when the DPS asks if you want to register to vote. Take 15 minutes to vote for a school board and a city council member. It does not take that much time and you will be doing your country, and yourself, a great service. Give yourself a voice.