Never before have Americans beared witness to such a controversial and unpredictable campaign season. On one side we have the Republican candidate, Mr. Donald J. Trump, a brash and bold New York business mogul, who, with help from constant media attention, muscled his way through a field of 17 potential candidates to become the Republican nominee. On the other hand, we have Democratic nominee Mrs. Hillary R. Clinton, who beat out the surprisingly popular Bernie Sanders for the nomination. Leaked emails brought forth claims of Hillary and the Democratic National Committee rigging the system against Senator Sanders and forced DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to step down. Two less-known third-party candidates, Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, have emerged with a renewed sense of hope due to the unpopular options on the major-party tickets.
In the end though, as always, two major candidates emerged from the colossal mess that was the primaries, battered and bruised, but prepared to weather the storm of the general election campaign. And this is where we, the electorate, truly begin to play a part. The candidates will spend (and have spent) vast sums of money in an attempt to court voters from all walks of life to bestow upon them the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. Still, it is, as writer for the New York Times Jennifer Boylan puts it, ‘The Year of the Angry Voter.’
This brings us to an important question: With such lackluster candidates, why should you vote? For most college students, this will be the very first time to exercise the privileged right in a presidential election, and there has never been a better time to do so. College-aged voters can help shift the direction the country will move for the next four years, whether it be to the right, to the left, or maybe somewhere down the center. A quick Google search into the policies of each of the candidates reveals major differences on many crucial and controversial topics. It is important to see through the “reality TV” atmosphere that plagues this election, to see the proposed policies (or lack thereof) for what they really are and to consider the implications of electing either option to the presidency. Though it is true that many Americans, especially younger Americans, suffer from a drained sense of personal political efficacy, in reality there has never been a better time to play a part in the political process come that second Tuesday of November. Students especially have the ability to use their newly-gained voting rights to help shape the future of America and assist in guiding it into a new era; an era at which millennials are at the verge of taking charge. Furthermore, if one chooses to subscribe to the idea that the two major candidates are too abominable to be worthy of a vote, there is still the option to vote for the third party candidates.
Third parties are polling (as of October 16th) surprisingly well in some states, and national polls give them (and other independents) roughly 7-8% of the popular vote. One idea explaining the trend is that third parties are polling much higher in this election cycle due to the voting population’s frustration with the insufficiencies of the major candidates. It is only logical that the average voter is likely to seek another option. But the question is, if the third party candidates aren’t going to win, why vote for them? There is an interesting implication here. A vote for a third party can help begin to break the typical two party mindset but it will more likely bring more light and national attention to their cause.
In fact, the registration and fundraising for the Libertarian Party is up, and Gary Johnson’s campaign has raised roughly $8.5 million this cycle. It doesn’t take much to conclude that the increased attention to third parties this year has made waves in the political world, and a vote for them helps their cause a little bit more every time. Furthermore, the Libertarian and Green parties are not the only ones affected by an increase in support for third parties, either. Since many times the third party votes are siphoned from one of the two main parties, those main parties might take note of what drew their voters toward the third party and adjust accordingly, whereas before they would not have given it any thought. Some say this could be a breakthrough year for the Libertarian Party, giving them a strong foothold on which they can work with for the future.
In addition to the presidential race, it is certainly worth noting that voter turnout will also affect local and state candidates running for public office, whether it be at the state level for the Georgia Assembly, or the national level, such as the Senate race between Senator Johnny Isakson, Mr. Jim Barksdale, and Mr. Allen Buckley. Additionally, there will be four amendments proposed by the State to amend its constitution on the ballot.
The University of Georgia has taken the issue of student voting seriously, and has set up a helpful webpage, that will help students in registering to vote, seeing whether students are registered in Athens-Clarke County or their home county, and even assisting students with absentee ballot services. The deadline to register to vote has unfortunately passed, but take advantage of the site and get out there, tell your friends, and get ready to vote. Recognizing that inconvenience can be no barrier, UGA’s Tate Center (Room 137) has been selected as an early voting location. So if registered voters are for whatever reason not able to vote on November 8th, they have the ability to vote early on November 1st and 2nd on the UGA campus from 8am to 5pm.
Voting is extremely important, regardless of whether or not the candidates are likable, because one vote, combined with 35,000 others here at UGA and the millions of young voters around the country, has the power to help drive the nation into a new era. It is time to forego your previous plans for that first week of November, to do the proper research, and to make time to go vote and play your privileged and empowered part as a contributor to the course of the nation’s future. In the words of the great art critic George Jean Nathan, “Bad officials are elected by citizens who do not vote.”
— Boris Abreu is a Sophomore studying political science and international affairs. He is a first-time contributor to THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE.
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