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Election Education: Know Your Vote

Rebecca Doyle |
November 5, 2012 | 7:17 p.m. PST


As election day imminently approaches, young voters should adjust their true motives for heading to the polls. (Theresa Thompson/Creative Commons)
As election day imminently approaches, young voters should adjust their true motives for heading to the polls. (Theresa Thompson/Creative Commons)
The clock is ticking, the sun is setting and the hour of cold-only “food” at college dining halls is at hand: we are only a day away from knowing the identity of the next President of the United States. Are you going to vote tomorrow? Perhaps a more appropriate question would be: Are you going to be informed if you vote tomorrow?

Uniformed voting seems to be the plague of our generation, and ironically so. After very meticulously conducting many very scientific and precise experiments involving reminiscing on conversations with my peers, I have determined the three main reasons why college students think they know enough to vote:

1. They ask their parents.

2. They jump on a bandwagon with their friends.

3. They know one or two social issues.

Although the parents issue is a prevalent one (in terms of both agreeing and rebelling), the prime reason tends to be the third: students are familiar with one or two concepts (social issues, media sound bites or isolated gaffes), and base their vote on very superficial knowledge. Consider a few questions: Do you know Romney’s religion? What about his tax plan? Do you know Obama’s middle name? What about his foreign policy in the Middle East? Younger voters are notorious for knowing the answers to questions that shouldn’t really matter. Knowing only a candidate’s stance on abortion, gay marriage or immigration makes you about as knowledgeable as Kristen Stewart is committed. They know the one-liners of the presidential debates but not the issues behind them. They know how energetic or suave each candidate sounded but not the stances behind what they said. They choose a candidate (often for one of the aforementioned reasons) and then simply regurgitate phrases like “47 percent” or “You didn’t build that” and act as if their knowledge of politics is supreme. It’s amazing how many students will feel the need to inform the world that they “Don’t Care” about political affiliations on Facebook – yet they see a presidential meme on Facebook and start the comments-equivalent to Hurricane Sandy.

ALSO SEE: Why You Should Vote for Mitt Romney and Why You Should Vote for Barack Obama

Is our generation to blame for our ignorance? Partly. After all, with so many online resources it’s simple to take the time to become politically educated. However, I also firmly believe that it is due to a disinterest of those promoting voting among college students. Proponents of young voting have so little hope for us – they’re all about “rocking the vote” but not about knowing why. If showing up to the polls and going through the motions of voting is “rocking” the polls, I wonder what their standard of sub-mediocrity could be.

So here’s your last chance: go educate yourself, at least on a few of the candidates and props. Candidate information is available online by state, but here is the excellent voter’s guide for the 50 percent of USC students who reside in California and here is a site you should have already used to search for information. Know your vote!

ALSO SEE: California Ballot Measures: A Suggested Voting Guide

And honestly, if tomorrow you truly don’t have concrete reasons to support a specific person or measure – don’t vote on it. These are terms of years in length that we’re talking about. And don’t waste your time and everybody else’s by choosing the name of the candidate that sounds prettier – an attractive name does not equate to deserved support. (Heck, I’m sure “Kim Kardashian” on a ballot would have quite a nice ring to it.) 

So have courage, take an hour or five, and go educate yourself. I know it can be time-consuming, and I know it can be difficult. But as my Intro to Cinema TA likes to say, this isn’t public school. We’re not at UCLA for a reason.

So, as the hours dwindle down, consider tomorrow more important than the hardest biology midterm you have ever taken – except all the answers are already out there and available. Republican or Democrat, 30 or 38, liberal, conservative, or in-between – give me a fourth reason why our generation chooses to vote and make sure you can be proud of your choice twenty years from now. Otherwise, looking back on your youthful decisions may be harder to digest than the still-frozen chicken in your college dining hall's mango chicken “salad”...yum.


Reach Contributor Rebecca Doyle here; follow her here.



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