I don’t vote. I don’t support or look fondly upon politics. I think the fact that there is such a thing as a “professional politician” is a bit ludicrous. Therefore I will not be voting for the next president of the United States. But with that being said, I’m also able to admit that I don’t know all that there is to know about each individual politician who may be eligible for the next election—without all knowledge in regards to their agendas and professional political (sigh) history, I most definitely cannot make an educated, “correct” decision for whom I would vote.
When it comes to elections, the only time I see fit to exercise my right to vote is if I can be 100 percent behind a single candidate; anything less isn’t worth it. With that being said, my right to have the option to vote if I were so inclined is very important to me.
I’d hope that others share my view and refuse to vote until they feel they have all the information needed to make their decision, but that’s not always the case.
To gauge the very base of Elizabethtown College’s knowledge on the upcoming election, I printed out pictures of four of the GOP candidates: Newt Gingrinch, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. With pictures in hand, I randomly asked 15 Etown students if they could name any of the four candidates in the pictures. Only four students were able to correctly identify the candidates. After some number crunching, that means less than 27 percent of the students polled could properly identify their potential future president.
I’m not saying that these numbers accurately represent the Etown student body as a whole, but I think it shows that knowledge in regards to politics isn’t at a strong point, at least for the time being. Along with the picture test, I asked three Etown students about their feelings in regards to voting and the elections—whether they vote or not and what their attitudes are toward the process in general. All three students gave a different response when asked whether they vote: a “yes,” “no,” and an “I don’t know.” Sophomore Tyler Kunkle shared, “Voting is important because we fought for that privilege … To not use it would be a waste. I feel it’s your responsibility to be informed and to vote.”
So, unlike me, Kunkle does indeed exercise his right to vote, and it is heartening to see he believes that knowledge about candidates and the election season as a whole factor heavily into his decision. Kunkle’s classmate sophomore Jack Hess remarked that, whereas he is unsure as to his overall feeling toward elections and voting as a whole, he thinks it is important for people to be able to vote for a candidate they stand 100 percent behind—voting for a particular candidate instead of voting for the sake of being in opposition to another.
This to something known as “strategic voting,” where a person votes for someone or something that does not coincide with their personal beliefs or feelings completely in order to avoid an outcome they would deem as unfavorable. This could be seen as voting for the lesser of two evils, and happens often during elections where there are only two major party candidates for a certain position or office.
For instance, in this coming election, you may have people voting either Republican or Democrat because they don’t want to see a member of the opposing party in office. Often these voters don’t even belong to one of the two major parties, but they don’t feel as if their beliefs or values are represented either strongly enough or at all on the political stage, at least on a federal level in the United States.
Strategic voting is one of the worst ways to exercise your right to be, or not to be, a voter in our political system. By voting for someone out of what could be viewed as spite aimed at a different candidate, voters can and will end up electing officials who don’t have the genuine support of the people.
Once in office, the candidate attempts to fulfill his or her political agenda, which was most likely highlighted during the campaign trail. He or she will be opposed by not only people who voted for another candidate, but a portion of the people who voted for that candidate because they didn’t actually support their proposed agenda in the first place.
From this, problems and unrest arise, leading to political and social tension, finger-pointing, and in more recently publicized events on Wall Street and other major cities in the country, anger.
These points alone are reason enough for people to avoid voting unless they are absolutely positive they stand behind every single point for which a particular politician may stand. Unless you’re informed, you can only potentially end up hurting yourself, and in the most drastic case, you could contribute to widespread dissent if you vote just to vote or out of spite. It seems as if, especially in the case of voting during election time, knowledge is power.