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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Students: Exercise your freedom to vote

    Janne Peronacolumnist
    Janne Perona
    columnist

    Let’s face it: America’s democracy is far from perfect. Just look at voting statistics. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 58.3 percent of Americans over the age of 18 voted in the 2004 presidential election. Just 41.8 percent of people ages 18 to 24 – a group that includes most college students – voted. That is not very promising when the American government is supposedly a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

    But it is not only national presidential elections that have fairly low voter turnout. Even here at the UA, students choose not to vote for their elected officials yet later complain about what a horrible job they are doing.

    Today marks the beginning of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona primary elections, a two-day process in which the pool of ASUA executive candidates will be reduced to two each for three positions – president, executive vice president and administrative vice president. Since there are only 17 senatorial candidates, they will all advance to the general election.

    The series of ASUA debacles this year – from the scandalous sexual harassment complaints brought against the president to the stalling of many senators’ programs – should be incentive enough to vote. But in case it isn’t, here is something that may spur interest: In last year’s election, only 3,806 students voted in the primary elections – and that was the highest turnout since 1989.

    So of the UA’s 28,000 students, 14 percent decided that Cade Bernsen and Jacob Reuben would advance to the general election.

    In a country that values freedom and democracy above all else, it is disgraceful that its college students find voting to be so nonvital.

    A slightly higher percentage decided that Bernsen would be the next president.

    Despite those statistics, students all over campus have no problem complaining about the senate’s decisions or ruling on the guilt or innocence of our student body president. But really, do people who do not vote have room to complain?

    Many would say no: If you didn’t vote, then don’t complain about the outcome. Sure, you have the right to protest your government – in our case, ASUA – but to complain when you did nothing to try and sway the outcome is hypocritical.

    The remedy is a simple one: vote. After all, it is one’s civic responsibility to vote, not to mention it is in the best interest of everyone involved. Voting is essential to an effective government – student or otherwise. When only 14 percent of the student body participates in voting, ASUA only represents 14 percent of the student population.

    In a country that values freedom and democracy above all else, it is disgraceful that its college students find voting – arguably the most important aspect of democracy – to be so nonvital. The legitimacy of a democratic government is derived from the people, and when people don’t vote, the government loses authority.

    ASUA serves the students. It allots funds to student clubs. It brings speakers to campus through the Speakers Board. It runs the Pride Alliance, which works to maintain a safe environment for the LGBT community. It started the new laptop-loan service at the library and sponsors SafeRide.

    In short, ASUA matters. Voting for good candidates for ASUA matters. So it is not just voting, but informed voting, that makes a difference.

    Had more students voted in last year’s elections, perhaps Bernsen would not have been named ASUA president. Senate meetings might have room for real, student-oriented business rather than hours of reports and investigations into the actions of the ASUA president. But then again, he was the student-elected president. If more students had chosen to take three minutes and vote, the outcome might have been different.

    There really is no excuse for not participating in ASUA elections. Voting is done online and computers at the UA are hardly inaccessible. Candidates are elected by a popular vote, meaning that unlike the national elections, ASUA is not elected by any sort of electoral college; whoever gets the most votes wins, period.

    So go and vote. Let’s see if we can’t prove to the rest of the nation that college students care. And while you’re at it, pick up an Arizona voter registration form, too. You know you want to.

    Janne Perona is a criminal justice administration sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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