Flames of the Torch

Rock the Vote. Rolling Stone. MTV. All of these organizations spent a lot of time and money attempting to garner the youth vote. Targeting 18-24 year olds, the campaigns were aimed at increasing the number of college-aged individuals who not only registered to vote, but also went to the polls on Nov. 2. And while the number of young voters who voted was up (46.7 percent in 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau), there is still a problem with youth apathy.

Major elections, namely the presidential election, draw in voters in large numbers. However, midterm elections, which are just as important, tend to attract fewer voters. These elections have the ability to determine which party controls Congress.

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), in the 2002 midterm elections only 22 percent of young people, ages 18-29, voted. Of the 42 million eligible voters in that age range, 22 percent amounts to approximately nine million people. The population of New York City is approximately eight million people, just one million less than the number of young voters.

Why do so few young adults show up to the polls? One possible answer is that they just don’t care.

“I think younger people, they have this sense that things do not matter,” said William B. Ferraro, president of the St. John’s College Republicans. “They have so many other things going on in their life too. People who are 70 years old, they have less going on. They’re not going out every Friday night, they don’t have classes to take, they’re probably retired so I think that plays a big role.”

But there is something to be said about what these students will make time to care about.

Voting is a little more beneficial to the progress of this nation and of the interests of this generation than watching hours of YouTube videos or checking recently-updated Facebook profiles.

People turn on their television sets to specific channels to watch specific shows, and the numbers are added up to create the Nielsen ratings. Think of voting as the political Nielsen ratings. If no one turned on their television, there would be no ratings, and thus no change in show lineup. Everyone would still be watching “The Brady Bunch.” Politics work the same way. If everyone thinks that their vote does not count, then the show will not change. President George H.W. Bush could have remained in office if voting really did not matter.

Yet on any given Friday night, more students are out partying then would show up on a Tuesday morning to perform their civic duty and vote. A generation fighting for freedom around the world, and we can’t even manage to appreciate the freedoms we have at home. With such apathetic youths, it seems only too possible that one day the Iraqi citizens will be fighting to give back the right to vote to the American people. Today’s youth needs to get their priorities straight at home before they can impose their democracy on those abroad.