Rock the vote, or stop complaining

Aaron Pabon/Staff Writer

Your roommates are voting on what to eat for dinner tonight, and you decided not to vote. Then you learn that your dinner is Taco Bell, for the seventh night in a row.

Want to complain? Don’t. In fact, you don’t have the right to complain. Why? Because you didn’t vote.

Does any of this sound familiar? It should.

I heard many people complain about how President Barack Obama has done a bad job or how if former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney were to hypothetically win, he would hurt us more. The people who are complaining are mostly students between 18 and 25, and either didn’t vote in the 2008 presidential campaign, or may not vote in the upcoming one.

I decided to ask around FIU and I was surprised to hear that many students felt disenfranchised and that their voice is worth nothing.

English-American revolutionary Thomas Paine famously wrote: “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.”

While at that time he meant bearing arms; this can be applied today. If we step outside of our safety bubble and voice our concern, we can be heard.

The best and most recent example of showing voices can be heard is the fate of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act. In 2011, SOPA and PIPA were a series of bills and laws designed to go against Internet piracy, but online watchdog groups, examining what else the bills and laws would do, learned that it would severely censor the Internet. Users quickly mobilized and signed petitions, and contacted their congressmen and local lawmakers to voice their concern on these bills.

According to Democratic Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, over 14 million names were collected in various petitions. More than 10 million of those signatures were voters, and it is estimated that 6.5 million of them fell under the youth vote age range (i.e. voters within the ages of 18 to 29). If anything, SOPA and PIPA helped proved one thing: the youth vote can help in counting for something.

Unfortunately, this can hardly be said to the youth vote in Florida.

According to the 2012 precinct statistics from the Miami-Dade county elections, over 1.2 million people voted. 65,000 of those voters were in between the ages of 18 to 25. That is almost 5 percent of the total voters, and the number may be continuing to decrease. In 2011, the number of youth voters was 6 percent, and in 2010, it was 9 percent.

This trend was also present in the 2008 presidential campaign.

According to the Pew Research Center Publications, the youth vote was at its highest since exit polling began in 1972. Pew charts have shown that the number of youth votes was steadily increasing during every major presidential campaign; with the exception of Florida which had a decrease of 3 percent.

Almost every vote in every aspect in the U.S. tends to win by a small margin. In fact, with the exception of three U.S. presidential elections in the 20th century, every result could have been changed if more people voted.

After conducting simple internet searches and re-reading a high school United States law and government book, it shows that the great wall of government has doors that we as citizens can use.

Here is what we can do to help.

First, register to vote. Around the campus, there are volunteers trying to get people to sign up to vote and/or update their voter registration cards. FIU has programs like Turbo Vote to try to get students engaged in politics. In addition, the Student Government Association, College Democrats and College Republicans are planning various campus events to get students to be engaged in the elections and help members of said party affiliations understand it better.

Secondly, go out and vote. Your vote actually does matter in an election. Want a larger example? If every student, faculty and staff member at FIU were registered to vote (hypothetically speaking), and voted in a local election, we would be able to pass or overturn a vote by a large percentage.

Finally, understand and know all of the elections. Many people seem to forget that there are other elections aside from the presidential elections. Voting in the primaries helps select who will represent your party in general elections like congressmen, senators, and governors. Also many of the laws and bills that affect us directly come from Tallahassee and/or Miami-Dade. If we vote in the local elections, we can have a direct change in local politics.

Our voices do mean something, but unless we take action, stand up, and do something, it will mean nothing.

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