Letter from the editor: The Young Voter

“Does my vote count?” or “Why should I vote, when it doesn’t really matter?” or “I would love to, but I’m Swedish.” If you were to take a stack of voter registration papers through Santa Monica College’s campus, and ask people whether they’re registered to vote or not, you’ll probably come across the above responses.

By now, you might think that the urgency of SMC’s financial problems would have caused everyone to sound the alarms. You would think that young people, namely students, or otherwise any ordinary citizens concerned with the public education institutions of our state, would be aware of the importance of the passage of Proposition 30 this November.

You would think.

But the overall silence is almost deafening.

On Tuesday, the Associated Students, the Black Collegians and the League of Women Voters held an event geared toward educating students about Prop 30, aptly named “Get Out The Vote.” According to Parker Jean, the AS president, about 50-60 students showed up for the gala festivities, which was a “great success,” he said. And since welcome day, Jean estimates that about 300 students have registered to vote for the November elections through AS voter drives.

What the Associated Students and college constituencies are doing to spread awareness is commendable. But one percent of SMC’s student body is hardly what I would describe as a “great success.”

Perhaps this was a “great success,” because up until the event, almost nobody on campus actually knew in advance that this event was planned. There was virtually no publicity for this event around campus.

Attempts to get a comment from Jesse Ramirez, the AS director of publicity, were unsuccessful.

But ultimately, it’s difficult to say with certainty whether or not the one percent of students who showed up for yesterday’s event were there out of a sense of civic duty—out of a collective revulsion against apathy—or for the free pizza and Jean’s considerable skills at beat-boxing.

According to a recent July 10 Gallup poll, voters aged between 18-29 were 58 percent definitely likely to vote, which is a 20 points below the national average.

These numbers are deplorable and outrageous, and when I hear young people mockingly ask why they should vote, I offer a simple retort: Are you content with the way things are?

I don’t need to provide a laundry list of horrific statistics to convince people to vote. If I thought it would work, I would do it, but statistics, like the one above, are effectively abstractions.

And being a young person, I understand that abstractions don’t mean anything to me. What does speak to me are deadly serious facts. Facts such as the cancellation of winter semester; the grim specter of further cuts to come, good people losing their livelihoods; my life, your life, our plans, becoming interrupted, delayed, altered, blighted.

So, how do we reach young and disaffected voters? I often hear (and often say) that “young people” spend too much time online. Well if that’s true (which it generally is), we need to use that to our advantage.

Please go to http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vr.htm and register. Right now. Pull out your iPhone or Android and do it. It will take you less than three minutes.

Do you have an identification card and a social security number? You can register right now.

And when it comes to whatever you vote for, whether it is for Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Jill Stein or Prop 30, don’t just take my word for it. Do a little research. Form your own opinion.

That’s part of what’s involved in being a part of an educated electorate.

And it’s OK to get angry. It’s OK to express frustration and umbrage at society’s inequalities. But it’s important to always express yourself rationally and honestly. Articulate your ideas like a mature, thoughtful person.

Just don’t become angry the way a child throws a tantrum, or the way certain student protesters (read: my biggest fans) get angry.