Exercise your right to vote

By Alexandra Tollefson

tollefsonal@mnstate.edu

Last week, hundreds of students and teachers protested a Colorado school board’s proposal to review current history curriculum. The school board’s purpose in this was to change the curriculum in order to promote patriotism, respect for authority, nationalism, and the free-market system, as well as discouraging civil disorder, social strife, and disregard for the law.

In other words, things like slavery, the Trail of Tears, the Holocaust, the bombing of Hiroshima, etc. would be left out of history altogether. They would simply skip over the bad parts of America’s history, the things our country isn’t so proud of and/or the things we don’t “agree” with and pretend they never happened or existed.

As an education major, this bothers me immensely; a person’s education is precious and valuable. By excluding material and keeping information and knowledge from students, we are taking away opportunities for them to learn and grow. As a future educator, I could ramble on and on about how absurd this is. But this issue bothers me as a newly registered voter, too.

School board members are elected officials. People vote for them. Not many people, but all the same, they are given their positions democratically.

I can’t help but wonder if these same people trying to rewrite history would be in the positions they are today if everyone in our country took voting a little more seriously.

Only slightly more than half our citizens voted in the last presidential election —about 58 percent. And since America seems to run on a majority rule, this would mean that the winner of this race would only need to win over 25 percent of the people. As long as a fourth of the eligible voters are on board, they’ll have smooth sailing.

Okay, maybe that’s over-simplifying things, but my point still stands; if we don’t vote, our voices won’t be heard. How can we expect to contribute our ideals and ideas to our society if we don’t voice them actively in ways like voting?

This is a generous number, too. As elections get smaller and less important, voter turnout drops, and our local elections are the ones that influence our lives the most, after all.

We should be scrambling left and right to participate in those elections! When we elect school board members, we are giving them control over the education of our children. When we elect mayors and council members, we are giving them control over our homes and livelihoods.

These are things that are near and dear to us and that will affect us every day, yet as citizens, we don’t give these elections the time of day.

Voting is important. It’s one of the easiest ways to be active in politics and give the government at least a clue as to what we want our society to be like. It is voting in an educated manner, however, that is the real trick.

According to Megan Warneke, a freshman paralegal major, “knowing who and what you are voting for is arguably the most important part of voting.”

Many people vote based on which party they identify with and nothing else.

When I asked another freshman, Nick Mertens, how he thought most voters decided who to choose, he told me, “I think it’s based a lot on what party they’re in. That, and whether or not the candidate looks like a nice person. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s how my family did it.”

Nick’s family aren’t the only ones.

Lots of people vote this way; first on party, then on the good vibes they pick up from the candidates. However, these kinds of voters are unaware of candidates’ standings on important issues or their plans to fix whatever problems the country is facing.

Therefore, their vote may as well count for nothing. For all they know, that particular candidate could have no ideals in common with themselves, despite being in the same party.

That is why informing oneself before voting on the candidates’ positions and plans of action is a good place to start when planning on getting involved with politics.

A wonderful place to begin is with the candidates’ web pages. Most of the big-time election candidates have these, outlining their thoughts and ideas about the direction they think this country or their particular state should go in. All that information is readily available to the public.

Voting for something more localized, like a school board or council members? They, too, may even have a website. If not, a potential voter could take it one step further and actually go to one of their meetings. These board meetings are open to the public and a great way to see politics at work up close and personal.

Sure, it may take some extra effort, but becoming more knowledgeable about a subject that is going to affect the lives of everyone around us is worth it.

So do the research. Read the articles. Visit the meetings. And cast your vote this November confidently, knowing exactly what you are doing.

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