The United States of America is founded upon the principles of democracy. It is founded upon the idea that people should and do have a say in what their government does and how the government acts. We are supposed to vote and elect representatives who act for us as they make their political career in Washington D.C. amidst those who represented us years before. It’s an important process, no doubt, but my question is why then is it so hard to vote?
On paper, the democratic idea of voting sounds poetic and moving. Every American has a voice and uses it by voting for other Americans who can sing for them. In a sense, we are electing candidates to do things for us (isn’t that America is all about?). This idea fits in well with the American lifestyle that seems centered on making tasks and jobs as quick and easy as possible. But here’s the problem: voting isn’t easy.
Voter turnout has been steadily declining since the 1960s. But wait, isn’t voting the direct way to demonstrate America’s democratic foundation? It’s supposed to be, but the irony of it all is that Americans aren’t voting. This isn’t to say that all of a sudden we don’t want our voices to be heard and represented. What is obvious to me is that we’re used to having things quick and easy and voting has become a bothersome task.
Consider this: presidential election campaigns have started years before the voting date, making them seem never-ending, and giving people the impression that they must follow from start to finish. Elections are on a Tuesday, when people are working and going to school; many people, especially the college-age generation, have to vote via absentee. For a country that likes the easy life, we sure make voting hard.
Presidential candidates start their campaigns up to two years in advance. It seems that as soon as a president is elected, he starts campaigning for the next election. I say give it a rest. The non-stop campaigning and the non-stop coverage of the campaigns sends the message that we need to be tuned into our TVs and radios to make sure we know who’s running, what they stand for, and that gosh darn it we better vote. It’s as if the American people are supposed to be in a non-stop state of voting. It’s exhausting and it’s pushing voters away.
Let’s say you live through the endless campaigning and still have the desire to vote… I hope you’ve cleared your schedule for the Tuesday on which elections are held. Tuesday. Why are elections held on a weekday? Doesn’t the government know that the majority of Americans are working all day trying to contribute to society and the economy? Yet, the cornerstone of democracy (voting) takes place, regardless. This means an American voter has to find a way to work around his/her schedule to make sure he/she can vote, or vote after work, when it’s late and they are tired and just want to go home, or not vote at all. Would it be too much of a problem to move election days to the weekend? Or give voters two days to vote? If the government wants us to vote, they need to set election day at a time when it’s manageable and non-interfering to vote.
Along these same lines is the fact that many young Americans of voting age are in school, either high school or college. This means that even the young generation has to work around their classes, which can also be difficult, as it’s very likely that a student is also involved with extracurricular activities and may even have a job. College kids have plenty of time on the weekends to go out and vote, but during the week… not so much.
Furthermore, there is the whole problem of the absentee ballot. Most students go to college outside of their hometown town and county. Enter the absentee ballot, the most difficult way to vote. Every state has different deadlines to register for an absentee ballot, the process is complicated, and no one seems to know any information that can help a troubled voter out. My roommate is from out of state and was trying to figure out her absentee ballot. She went to three different locations to see about voting and at each location she was told something different, including someone telling her she couldn’t vote because she had missed the deadline. No wonder the voter turnout rate is low among young Americans, it’s so damn hard to vote. We cannot be expected to vote if we can’t even figure out how, especially if the people who are supposed to have the answers have none or the wrong information.
It amazes me that I live in a country which prides itself on having a government that is governed by the people, but the people aren’t getting out to decide how to be governed. Technology has made Americans' lives simpler in many aspects, so Americans are used to quick and easy. Why hasn’t the government taken this easy approach to life and transferred it to the voting process?