In 1984, 233,286 people voted in the election for Indiana’s eighth congressional district. After an extremely close race, the Indiana Secretary of State declared Rick McIntyre the winner by 34 votes, after ignoring other recounts that showed Frank McCloskey in the lead. After the House conducted its own recount, however, it seated McCloskey and declared him the winner by just 4 votes.
Just four votes made the difference; a margin so slim that it accounts for just 0.00171 percent of the total votes cast. In that particular election every individual vote counted, and the same could hold true for the election this year.
This year we are lucky to experience a political season like none other. Republican nominee Mitt Romney will run against incumbent President Barack Obama, and for the first time in 35 years, someone other than Richard Lugar will sit as a Senator from the state of Indiana. Even more exciting than that, however, is the fact that some of us (myself excluded) will get to play a role in the election. One of us could be the single deciding vote.
As exciting as this is, however, it is also problematic; our generation is embarrassingly unaware in regard to politics. According to the Pew Research Center’s News IQ Quiz, only 43 percent of people ages 18 to 29 could identify House Majority Leader John Boehner as a Republican and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as a Democrat. Additionally, only 44 percent of people ages 18 to 29 could identify the Republican Party as the “party (that) is generally more supportive of reducing the size and scope of the federal government.” Not only is this embarrassing, it is also troubling.
The importance of being politically aware cannot be understated. The government and politicians–both local and national–are directly involved in each citizen’s daily life. Not only does the government control issues that affect adults and families–like taxes, wages and retirement–but also issues that affect the typical high school student, like driving laws and education policies.
Additionally, it is important which candidate shares the same values and ideals as you. Putting faith in a random candidate often proves to be detrimental, as that candidate and you may share completely opposite views on a landmark issue.
Even if you cannot vote, however, political awareness is still of the utmost importance. Support for a candidate (I’m reluctant to say “campaigning”) can make the small difference needed for victory. It is not like the election does not matter; every citizen in the United States has a dog in this fight, as the outcome will impact every single citizen, all 312 million of them.
The ignorant student here might point out that we live in a nation of more than 300 million people, and one vote in 312 million makes very little difference, but he could not be more wrong.
In the 2000 Presidential election, 5,962,657 people voted in Florida. After a mandatory statewide recount, it was declared that Republican George W. Bush defeated Democrat Al Gore by 537 votes, thereby winning the U.S. Presidential Election.
In that particular election, 537 votes made up 0.00901 percent of the total votes cast. 537 votes in a country of (at the time) 281 million made the difference between a Republican President and a Democrat President. Even here, on a national scale, it is evident that every individual vote counts, and students need to remember that.
Tuesday, Nov. 6 is right around the corner. Between then and now we will see two National Conventions, a Vice-Presidential announcement and an influx of campaigning. Between then and now we have ample time to research and make an informed decision on who to support.
As I said earlier, the importance of political awareness cannot be understated. Every person matters and everyone should participate, for if it comes down to it, you could be that one, single, deciding vote.