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Leave excuses behind vote in Nov.

Kendrick Wilson
By Kendrick Wilson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, September 29, 2003

Ask a UA student about the election in six weeks and you are more likely to get a blank stare than a well-reasoned answer. While many students are busying themselves with the week's assignments and the party scene for the upcoming weekend, not so many have taken the time to understand the important issues they could affect on Nov. 4.

Voters across the city will choose a mayor and three City Council seats and will decide whether or not to accept a transportation plan that includes money for a light rail system that would service the UA area. Democrat Tom Volgy is challenging incumbent Republican Bob Walkup for mayor, and Democrats Shirley Scott and Jose Ibarra are facing Republicans Mike Jenkins and Armando Rios for their council seats. Democratic Councilwoman Carol West is running unopposed in the general election.

So what difference can a city election make to UA students? If students would get past their apathy, they would realize that their votes in city elections might be the most important ones they ever cast. Many decisions are made at the local level and votes in city elections go much further to bring change or preserve the status quo than in presidential elections because fewer votes are cast.

The streets on which we drive, the local economy that could either provide us with jobs or leave us unemployed, the firefighters and police who protect us, the water we drink, and even the air we breathe are directly impacted by the decisions made by our mayor and City Council.

I have heard far too many times from students who didn't grow up here how much they hate Tucson and Arizona as a whole. They often use that as an excuse not to vote and to keep from taking an active role in the community.

If they would get past the fact that they hate where they are and actually formulate some reasons why they don't like this place, they would be hard-pressed to give valid reasons not to vote.

The very things students from other cities complain about traffic, a sleepy and inactive downtown, parks, buses, crime, rundown neighborhoods are all things that can either be improved or worsened depending on the leadership (or lack thereof) at city hall.

Rather than take the time to learn who would be willing to fix the problems we have in Tucson, many students may find it easier to leave as soon as they can. It may be easier, but I find it hard to believe they would take much interest in any community that they find themselves in later if they refuse to make a difference here.

In previous years, students have voted in pathetically low numbers. According to the National Election Studies, only 33 percent of people born after 1975 voted in the 2002 elections nationwide.

Fortunately, not all students fit the apathetic stereotype. For example, Nomiki Konst, a political science sophomore, takes her voting rights seriously.

"I'm from New York, but I realize that I still have to pay tuition and abide by Arizona's laws and live in Tucson while I'm going to UA," she said. "People complain about things, but the only way to make a difference in our society is (to) get out and vote."

Konst believes it's worth the time it takes to learn the issues so students will be taken seriously.

"Students are affected by so many issues because people don't take us seriously," she explained. "If we want people to take us seriously, we have to go out and vote."

All of you who say you can't vote because you don't live here permanently, even though a temporary residence counts for voter registration, can as long as you are not registered in more than one place at once. It's even possible to print out a voter registration form online at the Pima County Recorder's Web site.

Those who don't have time to go to the polls can request a mail-in ballot, too.

Leave the lame excuses behind this year Tucson is your city, whether you like it or not. Now, get out, vote and make this place better.

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