Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

It’s been ages since America has seen or elected a gallant and lionhearted leader to commandeer the great nation our Four Fathers earnestly established in 1776. Since the formation of the United States of America, its society has experienced few that have assumed power, and through swift execution and splendid intelligence, have simply done wonders. During his four terms as president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who astoundingly rescued the country from the financial chasms of the Great Depression in 1932, once stated in his first campaign for presidency, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting. The right to vote embodies the spirit of American democracy.”

Roosevelt affirmed that he was the best candidate at the time and through the sloganization of the hit record, “Happy Days Are Here Again,” the former American statesman compiled a presidential tenure spanning nearly 12 years with many of his policies and reforms influencing future administration in the following decades. Aside from the institution of the New Deal in 1933, it was ultimately Roosevelt’s strong emphasis of voting that unanimously encouraged the Americans to elect him as their commander and chief for four consecutive terms and furthermore lifted the economy out of the theoretical mass known as the Great Depression.

Since the Roosevelt era, voting itself has seemingly lost its vital significance, just as the wrist watch industry has lost its appeal in a market dominated by smart technology consisting of iPhones and iPads. When it comes down to elections whether based locally or nationally, there doesn’t seem to be the slightest care about the sole existence of our government. I asked several students at Lawrence Hall in West Chester University how they felt about the upcoming Pennsylvania Midterm Election and to no surprise the reception was generally weak and downright limited at best. The many students I spoke to were either disinterested or unfazed by the simple question that I asked. While there were plenty of answers lingering with uncertainty, many of the people I interviewed were clueless about what exactly a midterm election was. Perhaps I was asking the wrong demographic. After all, I am conversing with a small sample from one of the largest party campuses in the state. Politics are the last thing on their minds. What troubles me the most, however, is when voting was strongly emphasized in the 2012 Presidential Election, there still was a lack of engrossment when candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney squared off with each other. The universal question I ask today is plainly this: Why is it that midterm elections are unable to draw American youth? Is it the overall lack of gravitas or notoriety?  Has there been nothing but disenchantment with the District of Columbia reaching critical masses?  Is it a sense or growing belief that a single vote has the least bit of value? A mammoth amount of research has been conducted by the Pennsylvania Electoral College in attempt to answer these questions, but only to little avail.

While national figures present an intriguing story, Pennsylvania voting statistics, specifically, illustrate a similar problem andlocal numbers do not lie as they further illuminate this disturbing gap in the electorate. According to Matt Razzano of The Patriot News, there are approximately two million young voters living in Pennsylvania, making up about 20 percent of the voting-age population in the state. National youth voter turnout in 2008 was measured by 51 percent, but in Pennsylvania it was 53 percent, a historical low for the state. Despite the lackluster showing six years ago, Pennsylvania managed to accumulate better average in the youth movement turnout in 2012 drawing an assortment of campaign events during the autumn. Nonetheless, Pennsylvania youth voter turnout in recent midterm elections has plummeted slightly below the national average which currently stands at 23 percent in the state and 24 percent nationwide. The most recent 2010 Pennsylvania Governor election was ultimately separated by about 350,000 votes, and the 2010 U.S. Senate election was decided by a mere 80,000 votes, barely scraping the campaign estimate of both parties.

The 2014 Midterm Election could suffer a similar fate if voter interest of the Pennsylvania youth movement continues to rapidly decline. The biggest issue with the Electoral College stems from the lack of catering and advertisement whether locally or nationally. What reforms are these candidates promising to cater towards young men and women ages 18 through 24? Congressmen and state officials have larger needs to attend such as public works, police enforcement, and tax reform, but what do college students want to truly see in a candidate? What is the younger generation expecting from him or her? Politicians have a strict agenda to follow for entire term in which provisions to government and people are implemented and while that may be essential to sealing the final ballot all areas of the state need to be addressed including collegiate institutions. Although state officials take part in funding academics and state education, they aren’t directly speaking to the students that attend as opposed to the administration itself. What the youth and state must do is speak to one another about how to improve conditions at state schools. West Chester University, for an example, has seen an unfortunate rise in rape and sexual misconduct that has been escalating since 2012. That issue alone is worthy enough of drawing a solution by a state representative or congressman. If a candidate expressed interest in finding a solution to the growing epidemics at institutions such as West Chester University, it is quite possible that voter turnout would skyrocket tremendously.  It takes two to tango and if neither side speaks up about voting encouragement, nothing will be accomplished, thus keeping Pennsylvania at an uneven balance on the tight rope when Election Day rolls around. If Pennsylvania wants to corral more younger voters, they need to stand fully committed to addressing their concerns in their campaign. Otherwise, expect the numbers to steepen downward.

Though we have propounded democracy widely, suffrage has never been equally accessible to the American people. In fact, casting a vote is the most widely understood and undoubtedly the most effective way to have one’s voice heard in American politics. When we exercise our right to vote for public officials or even organization board members, the votes we submit extend far beyond one election. Through a system of ballots, we are able to discreetly elect individuals who will make utmost concrete decisions on our behalf about how our government should function, the diplomacy we engage in, and lastly, how resources, both national and local, are regulated and distributed.  In addition, the election of candidates from diverse communities and background correctly serves to create a leadership base that can articulate and advocate  the needs of these communities.

The history of the right to vote has been defined by exclusions. During the grand inception of our nation, a majority of the voting population only consisted of white males with private property or income wealth could exercise the right to vote. The first major appendage of the right to vote occurred shortly after the Civil War with the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which extended the right to vote to former African American slaves. However, from that very moment until the Voting Rights Act in 1965, many African American, Latino, Asian American and Native American communities were denied of the polls through overtly racist means. Although the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 heralded a new epoch in providing racial and ethnic minority communities with access to the political process, the struggle for universal suffrage and political participation is far from over.  The endless struggle for voter equality continues today.  Concerned community activists, voting rights lawyers, and other advocates armed with tools, such as the federal Voting Rights Act and other federal and state statutes, persist in their efforts to dismantle the last vestiges of electoral devices, practices, and procedures that inhibit the full political integration of racial and ethnic minority communities. With that being said, finding consistency in the polls remains vigorous and the only way to attain quality voting is through heavy marketing and encouragement. As you are reading this right now, my objective is to encourage students at West Chester and beyond to delve into their beliefs and take part in their community through casting a vote. It is quite liberating and refreshing to contribute to a political cause and despite the feeling of unworthiness, every vote matters when it comes down to election. Make a difference today.

Drew Mattiola is a third-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at RM814408@wcupa.edu.

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