Why Don’t We Vote?

Abri Wilson / Staff Illustrator

Students weigh in on today’s political state and what gets them motivated to vote, as the Democratic Primaries arrive.

The time has come again to vote for president. Whether for re-electing the current president or campaigning for another candidate, this is a tense time of the year. The Washington Democratic Primaries start on Mar. 10, where citizens vote a nominee of a major political party for the office of president.

For Pierce College student Nicole Lee, her parents instilled many values growing up, as being a first-generation citizen. One of those values included going out to vote. “One of our rights and freedoms is to vote on our elected officials and how they’re going to run this country.”

“It’s going to be our future, right?” Lee said. “What’s going to happen to [American citizens] is directly correlated to who leads our country.”

Not all citizens are required to participate in voting, whether that is registration or voting in state and national elections. However, according to the Secretary of State, in 2016 only 76.83 percent of all citizens registered to vote.

According to ABC News, in Australia, voter participation has never been below 90 percent, as citizens are automatically registered and required to vote by law. For America, the big question which remains is one that’s been asked for years – how do we get people to go out and vote?

Travis Nelson, a Political Science professor at Pierce College, said it’s important that people know what they’re voting for, and are informed. “The main thing that we should do is show a connection to how politics actually affect our daily lives,” he said. Nelson added that having more high school or college classes focusing on current events could help students become more informed.

Some contributors to people not going out to vote include voters feeling as though their participation won’t affect the results in the long run. This is partly due to the electoral college, a system still in question by many voters.

According to HuffPost, the Electoral College involves 538 electors casting votes for the President. Nelson said it plays an important role, allowing presidential candidates to pay more attention to the interests of people in the smaller states that are typically ignored.

“But if we are getting to a point where the popular vote ends up quite different from the electoral college, then I think we need to reconsider the need to have the electoral college,” Nelson said.

Rachel Mathies, a student at Pierce, said the popular vote should have more merit than what it does currently. “I don’t think it should be abolished completely,” she said. “But I believe that it should be at least revised to be more reflective of the popular vote.”

Lee also adds that although it’s a way to get things done quicker, the popular vote should matter.

According to The U.S. Census Bureau, 18 to 29-year-olds make up only 21.2 percent of voters in Washington, compared to 45 to 64-year-old voters make up 34.6 percent. Mathies said young people are outnumbered by the “baby boomers”, and are easily discouraged about their vote making a difference.

Nelson said he expects a high turnout from voters of the younger generation this year, however. “It’s possible that with what’s going on with the impeachment that people will be kind of motivated to participate in the system,” he said.

Mathies, being 20-years-old, is excited to vote this year. “I feel like even though I’m a small number of the popular vote, my voice still makes a difference,” Mathies said. “Our ancestors fought for the right to vote, and I should participate in that process.”

When pointing out the decline in voters during election years, another topic which arises is what citizens actually want out of a presidential candidate. Voters do have certain qualities they look for, which can motivate those to go out and vote.

“Some of [the candidates] have more back bone than the others and that’s ultimately the difference in my eyes,” said Lee. “How will they be approached by the world, interact with other countries or nations and their leaders?”

Democratic front runners are Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, with Elizabeth Warren not far behind. Mathies said she looks for candidates who can stand their ground during debates, especially against President Donald Trump. “I don’t see it as being an actual debate,” said Mathies. “[Trump] doesn’t follow debate rules.”

For almost four years, President Trump has held the Presidential office. Trump was the first president to be impeached, acquitted and run for a second term in history. Nelson said Trump is still retaining supporters.

“It’s totally different than the past, where people have been able to run off their own merits,” Nelson said. “This impeachment process emboldens the supporters and gives more ammunition to his reelection.

With Sanders running as a democratic socialist, his platform of free college can be appealing to young people who are prospective or current students. Mathies said it’s hard to get started when you have student debt. “That’s a really huge impact on a young person because we are trying to start out lives at that point.”

If a democrat is elected into The White House, it could shift many aspects in the country. Lee wants to see de-escalation between the two parties and some of the social movements surrounding them. “Hopefully the attitude in this country will change,” Lee said. “I think ethically and morally in how we treat each other has been disrupted over the past four years.”

Although politics can be a complex subject, students can get more information about presidential candidates and current events by receiving updates through news apps.

To register to vote, you can visit votewa.gov.