Living democracy and voting in local elections

By: Andrew DeCilles

With November approaching, the bombardment of political billboards and yard signs is upon us. Election Day is imminent. While the polls will most likely not be as heavily attended as in the 2012 presidential election, this is still a time to step back and consider our involvement in the democratic process.

Unless you are an elected official, a staff member of an elected official or an employee of a government office or agency, your only opportunity to have a say in our government is by voting. Especially as college students, the newest members of the voting pool, it is crucial for us to make a critical examination of why we vote the way that we do, and the importance of our doing so.

There is no one more empowered than a well-educated and conscientious political citizen. Having a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the issues at hand and then using those critically formed stances to choose a candidate for whom we will vote is not only our right, but it is actually our responsibility as citizens of our country, state, county and city.

A democracy is, by definition, a government that is representative of its citizens. The tragedy in our country is this: a government can only be a fair representation of its people if they actively participate in the government, and the government will only function well if those people who are in fact participating are able to make decisions about for whom they are voting.

In 2012, roughly 60 percent of our nation voted in the election that would decide who would be our president. Voting that day would decide who would become the most powerful man in our government, and arguably the world, and only six out of 10 of us made the effort to cast our ballot. While it may be plausible to say that some people didn’t vote because they were busy that day or had other such complications, absentee ballots exist for a reason, and this is not an adequate excuse.

In the end, the lack of participation in our democratic system may boil down to a disturbing level of apathy. Whether you like it or not, the government pervades our everyday lives, and voting is the only way in which you can influence the way and the degree to which it does. If you weren’t planning on voting this year, I implore you to do so.

The second tragedy of American politics is the lack of conscientious, critical voters. Last year, while canvassing for a county level election, before I could get five words out of my mouth people asked, “Is he a Democrat or a Republican?,” which would result in either the door being slammed in my face, or a “You’ve got my vote,” and the door being closed with only a slightly lessened degree of vehemence.

In all of the weeks that I campaigned last year, the hundreds of doors on which I knocked, and the hundreds (if not thousands) of phone calls that I made, I would be exaggerating if I said that I had a valuable and in-depth conversation about our candidate’s issues with more than 20 people.

In short, it seems to me that a startling number of people are demonstrating fierce loyalty to their political parties, and not considering the candidates based upon their individual merits and platforms.

This is especially ludicrous to me because people most often align themselves with political parties due to their stances on the “big” issues, i.e. gun control, abortion, same-sex marriage, welfare programs, etc., as they should for elections that would affect those social issues.

But let me ask you this: what does your County Recorder’s view on abortion have to do with his ability to run an effective office? If you were to vote all the way down the ticket, you would have just made a completely blind decision about this office, based upon political issues that have nothing to do with that race.

Also, ask yourself this: if you are aligning yourself staunchly with a political party, why do you identify with those issues? Did your parents raise you to think that way? Is it the popular opinion of your friends, or the “vibe” you get from our campus? Do you really understand the ways in which the Affordable Healthcare Act will affect our economy and our healthcare system?

I encourage you to take a step back this fall and analyze why you are voting the way that you are, and make sure it is a well-informed, conscientious, critical and calculated reflection of your own beliefs. If you have done this, then you are participating in democracy in its truest and most effective form, and I applaud you.

Andrew DeCilles is a junior from Batesville, Ind. He is a philosophy major in the Philosophy, Politics and the Public program with a minor in political thought.