Political Participation Lacking in Agenda of Young Voters

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Throughout American history, many have desperately fought to bring suffrage to females, blacks and the youth. However, today in 2003, most Americans throw their right to vote away without thinking twice.

The 2004 presidential primary elections are nearing in March and the national election is in November. These two will serve as a good opportunity for eligible voters to attend the polls. The question is, how many will?

Having the right to vote is essential to any democracy, but having the right alone does not make a country democratic; one must exercise the right.

Yet, the greatest democratic country also has the lowest voter turn out in the world. In the 2000 Presidential election, only about 51.3 percent of eligible voters showed up at the polls. More specifically, eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 24 generally have the lowest voter turn out in most elections.

Natalia Roos, a political science major at GCC, will turn 18 in January. She is awaiting confirmation of her registration after she registered to vote online nearly a month ago.

“Everyone should vote, regardless of what their age is,” said Roos. “When you’re more informed about what laws are being passed and who’s being elected, you’re more informed about what’s affecting you.”

Roos registered as a Republican and has not stopped at simply a willingness to vote as a means of political participation. She also volunteered once a week at the Republican headquarters in Burbank during the summer of 2002 for three months.

She believes a major reason that young citizens do not vote is because “most likely they feel left out,” she said. “They always see older adults participate and when they get older that image carries over.”

True, not everyone is a political science major with a deep fascination of the political world around them. But Roos argues that is no excuse. “Everyone has access to propositions and statements,” she said. “Those things are mailed out to you if you do register.”

GCC Political Science Professor Mary Schander believes the low number of youth voters is largely due to a lack of connection between students and the voting procedure. “They may feel like one vote might not be important,” she said.

Schander thinks it is important for young people to exercise their voting rights because of the important role government plays in the public’s lives. “.Voting defines who gets what,” she said.

Schander insists students should make connections about what is going on in their lives and politics, in order to make sound decisions. “People have to see the link between what’s happening in their lives and voting,” she said.

Though, the truth is, not everyone feels this way. In fact, according to The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), voting participation of those under the age of 25 has decreased by 13 to 15 percent every year since 1972, when 18-to-21-year-olds were first granted the right to vote by the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, which was passed in 1971.

Narbeh Manoukimasihi, a 19-year-old Biology major at GCC, is very cynical about politics. “Candidates don’t do what they say,” he said. “There’s always something hidden behind their ideas.”

Though Manoukimasihi does not intend to ever cast a ballot, he is fascinated with the subject of politics. “I love politics,” he said, “but I don’t want to get involved.” He also shares in the fear that many others do. “My vote doesn’t count,” he said. Manoukimasihi also does not see the lack of voter turn out as such a problem in society today. “The people who want to vote, vote. The ones who don’t, don’t,” he said.

Many share Manoukimasihi’s cynicism toward politics, minus the fascination. “One vote doesn’t make a difference in a nation of hundreds of millions of people,” said Allen Sarkissian, an 18-year-old Math/Chemistry major.

Sarkissian does not intend to ever vote. “The turnout is biased anyway,” he said. “In my opinion, I think it’s all set up. Look at Bush. They threw millions of votes away and put him into office.”

He also believes the reason that young people do not vote today is because “they have more important things to do.” Will Sarkissian ever consider getting involved in politics? “Never,” he said.

A lack of voter turnout among college students is barefaced. What students must do is examine the reasons for their choice to stay uninvolved, whether it be indifference, not enough time or simple apathy.

People do not have to be a political science major or a political science professor to understand the importance of becoming involved. Anthony Cecere is an 18-year-old business major at GCC who has not found the time to register yet, but does intend to soon.

He believes the biggest reason that people between the ages of 18 and 24 don’t vote is that, “they don’t care what happens to the world around them,” he said.

“You should know something before you go into the booth, but I don’t think you need to be a political science major or have some big part of your life influenced by politics to vote,” he said.

Political science major, 18-year-old Shahin Badkoubei has not registered to vote but intends to. “The youth are so preoccupied with their social lives that they have different priorities,” Badkoubei said. “The future is kind of in our hands.”

Badkoubei hopes to become politically involved one day as a diplomat in the United Nations and the lack of political participation and awareness among the youth today angers him. “I think it’s a shame,” he said. “It angers me when they complain about our government and its system and don’t take part in changing anything.”

The thought of not exercising the power to vote astonishes him. “That’s a privilege we get. Why would I waste it?” he said.