Published: Sunday, October 21, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
As Americans, it is every citizen’s right to vote. But having a right does not necessarily mean that a person should take advantage of it.
There has been a rise in pro-voting campaigns, especially those aimed at young people, encouraging them to register to vote. But if someone is politically informed, that person won’t need a campaign to get him or her to vote. Pro-voting campaigns, while good in concept, bring more uninformed voters to the ballot, which just insults the political process.
The “Rock the Vote” campaign is one of the most well-known, and it uses music, pop culture, and social media to encourage people to register to vote. The campaign also works to raise awareness through a high school civics program and online tools to get informed. I’m all for these actions, and if people have used those resources, I’m glad they’re voting. My problem, though, is with the people who go through the process of voting without first becoming informed.
When I was younger, I remember going with my mother to vote. She had looked into the issues for the presidential election, but when it came to the state and local elections also on the ballot, she did not know most of the candidates or the issues that they supported. She chose officials based solely on party or a random instinct. If a person is in that position, they should not vote. Voicing an opinion without any information insults the process and everything that these candidates put into it.
While I’m just referencing one person here, this is something that I have seen this year when my friends fill out their absentee ballots. It is a scenario that seems realistic for many citizens who are only informed about certain elections or issues but are voting on all.
I think that the resources should be offered. The shuttles to voting stations, accessible and unbiased sources of information, and public screenings of the debates are all incredibly important. And while I think that all people should be legally permitted to vote, it is a matter of personal responsibility to only vote if informed.
Personally, I’m not voting. I think that it is my duty as an American to be informed about our politics, and I’ll admit that I’ve failed on that. I don’t think that I know enough to make an informed decision about who should be running our country, so I am going to leave that to the people who really know. In my situation, the only thing worse than not knowing politics would be trying to participate despite that.
A study done at Princeton University and published in the American Journal of Political Science found that uninformed votes impact vote probabilities by about 10 percent, and could make the difference in election results. In an even more shocking study, Lynn Vavreck of the University of California at Los Angeles asked thousands of registered voters questions about politics. Varvreck found that only 69 percent of people could identify Joe Biden as vice president. Should those other 31 percent of voters really be having a say in who runs the country? If they don’t know the current vice president, would they really be informed about candidate policies?
Campaigns encouraging individuals to vote create more uninformed influences in politics. One of the most-played Rock the Vote ads features a montage of celebrities saying, “We will be heard,” “We will be counted,” and ends with the message that “We will vote.” The commercial then shows the website link, saying to “register to vote” through their site. While the organization can help people learn about politics, their advertisements do not highlight this. They urge people to vote without first encouraging them to learn what they are voting for.
If someone is really invested in the political process, they are going to register and vote without needing a celebrity or an advertisement to tell him or her to do so. If a person does not want to take the time to read platforms, research policy, and watch debates, that’s fine. But don’t hurt others by pretending to be informed and making decisions that impact everyone. Vavreck’s poll found that only 43 percent of decided voters and 12 percent of undecided voters claimed to be following the presidential election “very closely.” If that is the case, don’t rock the vote. Stay home, and let the informed voters do that.