You hear it every election. In fact, you may be tempted to stop reading this column at the end of the next sentence you've heard it so many times. But brace yourself, here it comes again: Please vote.
According to a 1996 study, people over the age of 65 are more than twice as likely to vote as members of our generation. In other words, people using walkers and worrying about hip replacements are beating us to the polls. There are people with Alzheimer's that express their opinion more effectively than the overwhelming majority of our generation. Does anyone else think that's embarrassing?
A study done in 2000 by the Panetta Institute found that college students had little interest in voting or politics, but
onetheless ... are public-spirited and civic-minded."" Almost three-quarters had participated in volunteer work in the community at least once over the previous two years. Electoral politics, on the other hand, was often seen as ""irrelevant.""
While I'm glad our generation is such an altruistic bunch, I continue to be baffled by the apparent difficulty in connecting electoral politics to our lives. So we volunteer within our communities, who do you think helps fund the groups you volunteer with? Who decides whether taxpayer money goes to your local domestic abuse shelter or to corporate welfare? Who do you think is responsible for writing the laws that directly affect victims of domestic abuse, corrupt corporate executives, homeless, jobless and college financial aid recipients, just to name a few?
This is not a trick question. If you're having trouble coming up with names, your local polling place will have a ballot that lists a lot of them.
Let's get one thing straight. The results of today's election will affect your life whether or not you bother to participate in it. If you don't vote today, think about that before you start complaining about tuition next year. Think about it when your financial aid doesn't cover that tuition. Think about it before you whine about your taxes. Think about it before you complain about the economy or your limited job prospects. Think about it when your ideas aren't represented in the political process.
There are a number of important elections in Wisconsin and around the country today, the effects of which may be felt for a long time, including the race for governor. Wisconsin hasn't had a Democratic governor for 14 years. But today could change all that. In a less glamorous race, the Democratic incumbent DA is being challenged by Rick Raemisch, a Republican with some refreshing ideas that even the most stubborn liberal can love.
And state Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, the Democratic incumbent in the 2nd Congressional District is vying for her third term. Tammy is one of those rare political figures you can genuinely like, not to mention feel comfortable referring to on a first name basis. As the first openly lesbian member of the House of Representatives, she broke new ground. And as a representative of her constituency, she has stood her ground on issues ranging from Pell Grants to abstaining involvement in an unnecessary war with Iraq.
The student vote matters in every one of these races. Or at least they will if we can spare ten minutes from our day to take advantage of our right to it.
Still need one more really solid, completely self-interested reason to vote? How about this: for the price of heading to your local polling place and politically empowering yourself, you can do your part to cut down on columns like this. And maybe next year election day won't bring yet another column chastising you for your trite political apathy.