The cost of one student vote: priceless


by David Morain

The ads on TV let you know what time of year it is. “Senator Tom Harkin is against hunting…” “Doug Gross has fought for big corporations and will continue to do so…” “Tom Latham: Pro-Fascism…” OK, that last one hasn’t really been on the air, but you get the idea.

For many of us, these ads are just a 30-second interlude between episodes of The Real World: Las Vegas, time enough to get another bag of Cheetos and call your friend to see if she got those notes from biology. It seems like our attention spans are only long enough to watch other people’s lives; we don’t have time to worry about our own.

Unless I’m missing a couple of Doogie Howsers, everyone on campus will be eligible to vote this year. Each of us has had ample opportunity to register (we all saw the blue-haired vixens at the BSC with their registration notebooks) so none of us should be able to use that as an excuse. We all need to vote.

But Dave, I don’t know enough about the candidates to make an informed choice…

Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 18-23 years of your life, you should have a basic understanding of how political parties in America work. Democrats = lots of government programs; Republicans = few government programs. That should get you started. For individual stances on issues, check out It’s chalk-full of information on each of the candidates in the gubernatorial, senate, and district races. It also has links to the Web site of each candidate.

Hey, I’m only one person. How much could my vote possibly mean?

Remember that monkey feces fight down in Florida a couple years back that was supposed to resemble an election? The decision for some people not to vote then meant the difference between Al Gore spending his days playing Yahoo! checkers or having coffee with the ambassador from Thailand.

Don’t think your decision to abstain from voting during a non-presidential election will have as much of an effect? The balance of power in congress is McBeal-thin, and each side knows that one seat lost could mean the difference on whether or not we go to war the next time something like Iraq comes around.

Come on, Dave, we live in freakin’ Iowa! We aren’t even affected by the decisions of a few politicians…

Hmmm… why are you in school again? To get a job? Well, you should probably know that jobs are leaving Iowa faster than Boy Scout Troop 46 at the Neverland Ranch. It sure would be nice to have a means of income (other than slinging crack) to pay back all those student loans. The people we put in congress affect whether or not jobs stay in Iowa, or even in the United States.

Besides, how could you possibly think that your vote wouldn’t affect your life? Say, for instance, that you want to have an abortion. Your vote keeps it legal. You want to make it mandatory for kids to say the pledge of allegiance before school? Your vote could make it happen. You want a constitutional amendment enforcing a dress code for mini-skirts? Keep dreaming… but your vote won’t hurt. Your daily life is a product of the decisions Americans have made in elections past, just as the lives of your children will be affected by the way you vote today.

Why should we listen to you anyway? Didn’t you predict that the Cardinals would make the World Series?

Next question…

There are already thousands of people voting this year. Why should I bother?

Back in 1992, 1.7 million registered Iowans turned out to vote. Two years ago, we saw that number dwindle to just over 1.3 million, only 60 percent of the eligible voters in Iowa. Folks, the apathy that is inherent in our too-busy-to-care society shouldn’t carry into the political spectrum.

Think of that weird kid in one of your classes. Go ahead, we all have them. Think of the strange things he or she does in class. Now think of the even stranger things he or she does outside of class. Imagine the weird ideas running through his or her head (“You know whom I admire? Charles Manson…”, “I alone can talk to the squirrels…”, “Fire is my only friend…”, etc.).

Now think about this: he or she votes, you don’t. That abnormal individual’s vote doesn’t count any less than yours, the governor’s, or even G-Dubs’ himself. You could be the one to cancel out that vote, an unknown savior of mankind.

So get out to the election booth on Nov. 5. In the end, it’s really quite simple. Every last one of us is affected in some way by the choices made on Election Day. You have to decide if that choice is going to be made by you or for you.