September 14, 2010

In Midterms, Youth Vote Still Matters

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The United States is a country founded on ideals of participation in government and political discourse. We Cornellians practice this every day, however there are new findings and reports that suggest that our most essential form of participation will be underutilized in this next election season. It is no secret that Cornell has a vibrant political presence on campus, but if the youth do not turn up at the polls, all the on-campus discussion and opinions will only be an academic exercise.This expected drop off in youth voter turnout is understandable considering the events of the last two years. President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign was perhaps the most promising, exciting political time in our generation’s history. Many young people at Cornell and elsewhere got their first taste of political involvement during this period of unprecedented hopefulness. It is therefore unsurprising that once the Obama administration got down to the inglorious business of governing (and once it became clear that Obama would not fix the United States overnight), young people retreated back into their relative political apathy.Yet it is still unfortunate that we could not parlay the large-scale youth involvement in 2008 into a lasting increase in youth voter turnout. The low expectations for youth voter turnout in this year’s midterm election underline how fleeting a moment of intense political participation can be. But this does not have to be the case. As students at a leading university, we should exercise our civic duty by voting in this fall’s elections — regardless of how uninspiring the races may seem.There should be more student groups actively trying to “get out the vote” than only the Cornell Democrats and Cornell Republicans. Every single student at this University has a stake in the outcome of the November elections, whether or not he or she is ardently Democrat or Republican. With the nation’s economic future hanging on the results of this year’s elections, young people — who will be paying much of the tab for decisions made today —  arguably have a greater interest in making their voices heard. Leaders of student groups should encourage their members to register to vote, and educate them on the politics around issues relevant to that group, as well as both parties’ position on the issues.To register to vote in Tompkins County, students can print a New York State voter registration form from the Internet, then mail it to the Tompkins County Board of Elections at 128 E. Buffalo St. For those who would prefer to vote in their home county’s elections, is a useful website that will walk you through the process of registering in your home county and applying for an absentee ballot.