America is the land of freedom, founded upon principles of equality and freedom not available to people living in England during the 1700s. When the U.S. was established, an entirely new system of government was enacted, based upon the concept of freedom. It was such a staple in the colonists’ minds that it was written into the documents that bound the new country together.

The freedom of an individual is the most precious thing there is; it is a part of human dignity and inalienable rights. Our ability to make our own choices allows us to have a say in the government. It is a chance to make our voices heard through voting, a crucial part of the American governmental system.

There have been multiple movements, like the women’s suffrage movement at the turn of the century, and by other groups throughout the decades in order to attain the right to vote. A voice in the elections used to mean so much to the people — it was a way of participating and exerting constitutional freedoms.

In the recent years, the lack of participation in American elections has caused some concern and prompted the question: Why? There was a lot of campaigning and outreach these past few months because of election day last week; I must have gotten a minimum of four calls from the different parties asking me if they could count on my vote for whichever candidate they were supporting.

Our generation is focused on political power play, and will be for some time. As the Baby Boomer generation shrinks in the coming years, the next large group to target will be us, the millennials. We have the power to change politics and shape our future once we are 18 and can vote. We are taught at a young age how important it is to exercise this right to have a voice in government operations.

However, the problem that arises is even though children are exposed to the importance of voting, not many of them do. People have grown more and more apathetic about the government, despite their quickness to criticize it. The youngest generation of voters, the largest growing group and the ones whose future is being impacted most of all, are the ones who do not partake in voting as much as others.

Why are young people so uninvolved in politics? Is it simply an exaggeration of those older than us? Is it an excuse as to why legislation favors older generations? Or is there any element of truth to be had to these allegations? There is a divide between young adults and the policies enacted, due to the different values and ideas that the older and younger generations have.

The values of those who control the government system do not line up with those who will ultimately pay the price for the laws enacted. With the youngest generation of voters not fully utilizing their right to vote, the chances that they have to influence the future dwindles away.

How is it possible to reconcile the problem that arises with the lack of participation in the elections?  What measures must be taken in order to have a higher voter turnout from our age group?

One possible idea to get a greater number of people voting would be to force Americans to vote in the elections, an idea some academics have suggested. However, by forcing people to vote, it takes away their right to freedom and choice, the very principles that this country was based upon.

However, requiring people to vote, much like we require them to pay taxes or serve on a jury, could break the political impasse that our country finds itself in. The larger turnout could force the political game to come to more of a centralization of ideals and policies, instead of two polar opposite plans. With more alignment in the policies, the laws and policies enacted will be better for the majority of the people, as more of their needs are met.

This policy of mandated voting has worked in a few other countries, such as Australia, and transformed the political game. With everyone voting, politicians who are not favored by the population are more accountable for their actions and laws enacted. Additionally, the campaigning aspect of the election is not a mudslinging one; the advertisements are based less on slander of the opponent and more on what one will do once elected.

So much of the American campaigning system is slandering and bad-mouthing the opponent. The advertisements mention how much the opposing party messed up and the awful jobs that were done in office. There are few mentions of promises, except to counteract the mistakes the previous holder in office has made. Ultimately, the media does not portray a positive image of politicians.

Perhaps if campaigning wasn’t always about bashing the other person, I would care a little more about the politics of our country. However, I am annoyed by the besmirching of a candidate of the opposition, and the lack of election platforms discussed in political advertisements. If compulsory voting was enforced, this type of campaigning would die out and the election process would become more about the change they can provide for our country.

Ultimately, we cannot force people to vote; it would not work in the United States because it violates the freedoms that this country was founded on. Our freedom to choose allows us to vote, to abstain or ignore the fact that elections are even occurring. However, the only way to change the operations of the government is to vote. You may think that your vote won’t cause much of an effect, but we are the largest growing generation and we can shift things in our favor, one election at a time.

 

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