As the March 6 Ohio primary approaches, students examine the importance of their right to vote

By Carly Tovell, ’13 and Victoria Slater, ’12

The constant noise of the presidential candidates—their policies, opinions, triumphs and failures—seems to continuously stir up controversy among the two main political parties. As the primaries and caucuses draw near, new eligible voters consider who of the Republicans will battle current President Barack Obama for the presidency next November. As the voting date looms, students at UA stay in tune with the political battle, become more politically involved and embrace their voting privileges.

Senior Alex Rosen plans on voting this year, and is looking forward to taking advantage of his voting eligibility.

“I think what made me really want to vote is the fact that this is the first election I have been able to vote in,” he said. “Also, because of my government class I’ve taken a lot more interest in voting and politics.”

The government classes have begun pushing students who might not otherwise be interested in the election to represent their voice by voting this March.

Senior Abby Dugger’s belief that it is necessary to vote in the pre-elections was inspired by her current government class.

“I have a lot of fun in government; I think it made me see how I can make an impact,” she said. “It has sparked my interest in politics and made me more politically aware. I don’t know if I would have voted had I not taken the class.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 71 percent of eligible voters registered in the 2008 presidential election, and only 64 percent cast ballots. Government teacher Chris Swartz believes that lack of voting is a result of apathetic and ignorant attitudes and loss of interest in the political process.

“I don’t think young voters take advantage of their voting rights and I don’t think most Americans do either,” he said. “They don’t care. They don’t think [the process] affects them. They don’t think that they could have an impact; therefore, feeling powerless, they do nothing.”

While the number of voters between 18 and 24 years of age increased to 49 percent in 2008 from 47 percent in 2004, it still represents the lowest voting rate out of all voting groups. In response to these statistics, Swartz shared why it is so important for young students to get their voice out, and to represent their beliefs during the political elections.

“The problem is, as we age we get much more set in our ways,” he said. “We don’t worry about the political process as much and so we allow these kinds of problems—like wars and excessive spending—to put Americans in greater harm. Young people today have similar opportunities to what I had when I was young: to change policy.”

Swartz elaborated on the inevitable danger America will face if citizens refuse to take their voting rights and responsibilities seriously. He said that without prompt change, the country’s economic welfare and standard of living will hang in the balance.

“I don’t want to see this country fall into such a tremendous mediocrity of negative political energy,” he said. “I think we’re in danger, and the current political landscape and those who are running for office are the proof of it. We need to find a way to annihilate some of these issues so that we can move forward.”

He believes that the most effective method to increase youth voting is to remind voters of the gravity of the country’s current economic situation and how crucial their ballots will prove in both March and November.

Rosen emphasizes how America is unique in allowing all citizens the right to vote, signifying the importance of voter participation.

“Voting rights are important to me because it gives me a voice,” he said. “Although at times it may not feel like your vote really has a say in government, the fact that we have the right to and that we truly have a voice in government is what makes our country great.”

A Quartet of Candidates

Republican candidates take position on a range of issues

 Joe Burbank/OrlandoSentinel/MCT

Newt Gingrich

Former House Speaker (1995-1999)

Plans to minimize spending on programs such as the FDA

Against nationalizing health care

Steve Jessmore/myrtle beach sun-news/mct

Ron Paul

US Representative (TX) 1997-present

Believes that the deficit is the highest priority and that US spending should be based on the Constitution

Advocate of free-market health care

Joe Burbank/OrlandoSentinel/MCT

Mitt Romney

Former Governor (MA) 2003-2007

Suggests reserving 4 percent of the GDP for national defense

Supports universal health care without increasing taxes

Joe Burbank/OrlandoSentinel/MCT

Rick Santorum

Senator (PA) 1995-2006

Argues that military intervention in foreign nations should occur only if there is a direct threat on the US

Calls for lower tax rates for individuals and corporations