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Exercise your rights: Democracy cannot operate without participation

This election season was rife with mud-slinging partisanship on all sides. Conservatives, liberals, moderates, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and Independents all contributed to the acrid political climate that drove people away from the polls in droves. Not to mention that this year’s election wasn’t a presidential one, which typically has a lower turnout.

I have heard many eligible students say that they chose not to vote because they didn’t feel well-informed. I have also heard these same students complain about our current government’s inefficiencies, or the potential of the newly elected to mess up a good system.

But if you choose not to participate in the actual election process, there is no room to complain about the results. It would be the same as if you chose not to study for a test and got a bad grade, but complained to the professor about an unfairly hard exam. Simply put, it is your fault that you didn’t get the outcome you desired.

To keep on with this analogy, there are times when students study harder than ever before for a grueling exam and still fail. That happens in politics, too, when your candidate doesn’t win. But in this scenario there is room for questioning – why, if I studied so hard, did I get such a bad grade? Or why did more people not support my candidate?

In either scenario, there might not be anything one can do to affect the outcome any further once the points or votes are finally tallied. But at least you can contest the outcome, debate it and be informed. Democracy is America’s ideal. It is un-American and un-patriotic not to vote, just as it is irresponsible not to prepare for a test.

There are also some common myths about voting, one being that your vote doesn’t count. I would argue, based on the fact that up to 70 percent of eligible voters do not vote in any election, that your vote is actually worth quite a lot, comparatively. It’s at least worth more than the non-vote of someone who does not express his or her opinion.

Also, not voting as a protest against our current system makes no sense. The fact remains that in order to enact change, people need to be voted into office to make laws. If you are unhappy with this system, speak with your vote. Silence changes nothing, and waiting out the system changes nothing.

If you legitimately have no opinion on the matter and don’t vote, that is fine with me. I’d rather have educated people who care to vote and take part in the process. But if you chose not to vote, there is no legitimate claim for a complaint. You chose not to make your opinion known when it counted, during the election, so you have no business complaining about something you could have done but did not even attempt.



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