Our 18th birthday is a magical age for several reasons; the most important of course is gaining the legal right to vote. Registration is fairly simple – except for the question regarding party affiliation.

Democrat, Republican; Liberal, Conservative.

Which should you choose?

Within the last few years, the nation’s political climate has become increasingly polarized and quite cutthroat. As seen in the 2004 Presidential Election, the public wants a candidate who takes a clear stance on an issue and does not waiver in his or her beliefs.

Take a look at the Lamont-Lieberman Senate face-off and respective attack ads; credibility and sticking to the integrity of their parties were two major concerns between the candidates

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 47 percent of 18 to 24-year-old citizens voted in the 2004 Presidential Election.

When asked why they did not register to vote they, the same younger demographic, responded that they were “not interested in the election or not involved in politics.”

Unfortunately, this opinion was held by 44 percent of teenagers and college students in this age bracket.

Disinterest in politics is a ludicrous defense as to why an individual does not cast his or her vote. While it could be an entirely different argument, voting is the single greatest right an American has and it should be exercised even in the smallest of elections.

But what about the “not interested in the election” aspect?

A group of individuals may not be fazed by an election just out of sheer laziness and lack of understanding. Yet, this is a sweeping assumption. Maybe the reason that a large portion of twenty-somethings do not vote is the pressure to conform to a political party’s set of ideals.

When I registered to vote, I related most to the Green Party. However, because I wanted to participate in primary elections, I was told that I should select the Democratic or Republican Party on the registration form. Because I consider myself a free-thinking individual who has liberal social leanings, I ultimately sided with the Democrats.

Yes, I typically believe in many of the ideals in the Democratic Party; yet, in an increasingly complex, politically blurred world, there are too many beliefs and issues to conform to the established ideals of a single party.

Political parties and their respective candidates should stop the scare tactics; they should stop pressuring people to side with their party.

While some people can clearly side and identify themselves with a political party, others cannot. This is the beauty of the American political process; there is nothing wrong with not being able to identify or conform with a political party.

Why, you may ask, should you start caring about voting now, after Election Day has passed and winners have already been declared?

It is still immensely important that students of all political beliefs cast their votes in all elections. Americans have the right and should utilize this right to cast their vote for an individual or issue to both serve them individually and benefit the nation as a whole. The public needs to monitor the initiatives of all politicians.

Individuals are also entitled to their own opinions on a growing array of social, economic and political issues.

Do not let political labels define you; get out and vote with your instinct when the next opportunity presents itself.

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