Is the ballot as valuable as a diploma?

Posted: Friday, November 01, 2002

If I decided the requirements for a college degree, I would like to make it mandatory for students who are eligible to vote, to exercise that right during their period of enrollment if they wanted to receive a diploma.

Living to Learn By Eric Morrison

I understand that people have the right not to vote; but if the desire to have an influence in choosing the people who will make important decisions that will directly affect your life hasn't been conveyed, then is a college diploma worth the paper it's printed on? Isn't the ballot equally as valuable as a diploma?

If you think about all the obstacles we must hurdle while learning to run our track through the bureaucracy, voting is just as practical, applicable and as important to your overall well being as any skill that a college degree will provide. But that doesn't take away from the importance of a college education. College provides a foundation of ideals, which if properly built up will amass to a palace of knowledge that will aid you in important decisions - like voting.

My foundation was further reinforced during a class discussion on the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks while we discussed the current status of the world. It was alarming to hear the concerns of this diverse group, in which nearly everybody believed voting has now become pointless due to the restrictions that limit this freedom. I interjected that voting is now as important as ever. I asked for a show of hands as to how many of my classmates had actually voted in the primary and only about 10 percent had.

One person said, "Who should I vote for, cheese A or cheese B," and went on to say that it was better to not vote at all than to vote for the wrong candidate. I do agree that voting for the wrong candidate can have ramifications that might make your quality of life feel encroached upon, but by not participating in the voting process you are providing no resistance to the possible encroachment of your rights. By not voting you are sending the message that this freedom which so many people have fought and died for is not worth the sacrifices that have been made to maintain this right.

If every one of the approximate 34,000 university students across the state actually voted, then the students would be a force to reckon with. University of Alaska Southeast Student Body President Mark Graves told me that the voter registration last year for the University of Alaska System was upwards of 90 percent. The actual voter turnout was a mere one tenth of the 90 percent registered. It seems like a lot of people simply have lost interest in the process and that's not just at the university level.

I keep having a reccurring nightmare that if the youth are not able to vote via cell phone or videogame console, then the desire to have a choice in the decisions that shape the world around us will not supersede the importance of the next material object to inflate one's self -importance and social standing among peers. On Nov. 5 we are faced with numerous important issues and some big decisions that will no doubt affect everyone in Alaska. So regardless of what you believe in, or who you think will do the best job in a particular position, just make sure that you get out to the polls to show that you still believe in the fundamental principles that helped shape our country.

Eric Morrison is a full-time student at the University of Alaska Southeast, a freshman seminar teacher's assistant, and the editor of the UAS Whalesong.

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