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A college student's reasons to vote


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Ryan Johnson
Columnist
By Ryan Johnson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 23, 2004
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"Man, it's a pain in the ass to vote, plus what effect does the election have on my life?"

Probably the majority of the college-age population has uttered something similar. In fact, people come up with a plethora of reasons to play a little extra Nintendo that day. But they're not reading this story either, so let them play Madden for a minute.

Above all other reasons for not voting, two stick out as most prevalent: One vote won't swing the election, and the election doesn't have any real effect on one's life.

For the first, let's blame laziness and move on. But for the latter, oh how that is wrong.

Depending on what is important to each person, there is surely an election that has a big effect on it. But let's use issues important to college-age voters (or, as the case so often is, non-voters).

Bars open until 2 a.m.? Governor Napolitano had the sole decision to veto or pass the bill. Aren't you glad she picked helping the economy over letting the government restrict people's lives (or at least from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.)?

Someone from the religious right, which seems poised to gain power in Arizona thanks to a pithy primary turnout that knocked out productive Republican moderates, might have vetoed the bill.

This incoming group will be all morals, all the time. This may or may not please you, but surely there are plenty of Sonic-players smoking a cigarette right now who would regret not voting if a statewide smoking ban took effect.

Does the college-age population really want to put power in their hands that could bring a Tempe-like smoking ban to Tucson?

The governor also appoints most members of the Arizona Board of Regents, which controls the University of Arizona. That's tuition, graduation policies and pretty much everything else to do with the university.

And state legislators. They always try to cut university funding. Have trouble finding classes? Graduate students teaching 400 level classes in your department? State legislators don't care about that nearly as much as votes. And if students don't vote ...

And what university student doesn't care about utility bills (save the residence halls)? Perhaps no institution wields so much power as quietly as the Arizona Corporation Commission, practically the fourth branch of the state government.

They see cases on a regular basis that can raise or lower the cost of utilities quite a bit. The five commissioners are almost solely responsible for what people pay for cable, electricity, gas, water, and Internet. And hardly anyone even knows who they are.

Will the Madden players wish they had known, once the bills on top of the pizza box are higher?

Another main point that college students often forget when deciding whether to vote is that there are issues that come up all the time in elections, and then there are issues that don't but are still affected by politicians.

Take the gas tax, for example. Some people say it should be lowered to reduce the burden on drivers. Others say it should be raised to spur innovation in alternative fuels and alternative fuel vehicles, plus encourage public transit.

You won't hear much about it from politicians. But it and countless other policies are quietly affected. So while the politicians blabber on and on about abortion, gay rights and jobs, other important policies get no airtime.

Those who read the newspaper every day and care about politics do need to admit that keeping up on all the events is somewhat of a chore. For that we understand the careless attitude so many students have.

But while they're playing Madden, the world around them will change. They may realize 20 years later that they had no say in decisions that greatly affect their lives.

Just ask the 19- and 20-year-olds who didn't vote when the drinking age was raised to 21. Even the most diehard partiers know they don't stand a snowball's chance in hell in rolling it back with the rest of the world.

Don't be lazy. Don't whine. Just vote.

Ryan Johnson is a international studies and economics junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.



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