As the 2008 election approaches, there are some disturbing trends that emerge. These are issues that show up when looking at election statistics. The first of the disturbing issues is the lack of participation in the electoral process. The problem: many people who want to vote do not. The question: why does this happen?

The answer is simple: exit polls. More than anything, it is the fact that television networks have the numbers that they get from exit polls readily available. The networks do it to improve their election coverage. However, in doing so, they unintentionally discourage people from voting. Like many problems, this one goes both ways. In other words, potential voters allow themselves to be influenced by the numbers from exit polls. A good percentage of those people end up not voting, because they believe the candidate they want to vote for will not win. The fact of the matter is that there is enough of a percentage of potential voters that do not vote to make a difference in the outcome of a particular election. But there are even greater issues regarding elections.

A huge issue is the apathy of the voting-age population. Many people have become disenchanted with politics because of the dishonesty that some politicians have displayed. Oftentimes, the attitude of an apathetic person goes a little something like this: it will not affect me, so I won’t vote. The truth is that the decisions made by elected officials affect the country, including those who chose not to vote. Abstaining from voting is not the answer. Often, the people who voice the loudest disapproval about legislation are those who have not voted. But trying to get apathetic people to realize that they should be active is not the greatest issue, either.

So what issue could possibly be worse than people taking a position of apathy? The answer is uninformed voters. Over the years, there is a disturbing trend of voters who are not making well-informed decisions when they go to the voting booth. This type of person comes from one of three categories.

The first category is the party voter. This is the person who will vote for the party he or she is affiliated with no matter what. The very spirit of voting is to select the person who best represents an individual’s values. Now, if a politician represents that person’s best interests, great; however, what happens far too often is that people vote solely based on their party affiliation. This is a disturbing trend, indeed.

Another part of this problem is the fact that people want everything in five minutes. Much of the important information that could be provided does not register with this type of person. He or she does not do the careful research needed to make a well-informed decision.

Also, there is a general attitude among voters of “what I do not know will not hurt me.” The person who believes this fits into the third category of uninformed voters, the ones who believe ignorance is bliss. This type of person does not read between the lines of legislation and is easily fooled into allowing politicians to slip hidden agendas into their law making. This is the type of person who believes all the promises made by the politicians and is not careful to do extra research and see what stands a politician has taken. These types of people are positively wrong. The most important thing for any voter is to be well informed. Until the section of the voting population that believes ignorance is bliss changes its attitude, there will still be problems.

Overall, as we look at this, there are some trends that need to be reversed. The problems seem simple enough, but they are actually really complex. Those who take the time to vote need to take steps toward a solution. We have collectively convinced people that their votes do not matter, and now we face the challenge of convincing them that their votes do matter. This is especially so for those influenced by the exit polls. The next step is to somehow make those who take the position of apathy believe that if they do not voice their concerns, nothing will get done and their interests will not be met. The final and most difficult step is to get people better informed. It is something that comes in two parts. If we make literature on all the candidates more readily available, that could solve the problem of getting the information out there for people who do not know how to find it. The second part of this is to convince those with the “what I don’t know doesn’t hurt me” attitude that ignorance is not bliss. The way to do this is to get them to realize that their best interests will not be met without knowledge.

Gillenson is a member of the class of 2010.

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