One would think that at a prestige university like The University of Michigan, most students would be informed about elections. However, I discovered that this was not the case. The night before the midterm election I told my friend how excited I was to vote tomorrow. Her response? “There’s a presidential election tomorrow!?” I was shocked to see that a friend of mine, who is extremely intelligent, did not know that the midterm election was the following day. Whose fault is this? Did our country not do its best job to publicize this election, or do many citizens live in a bubble that politics rarely break into?
After seeing the voter turn out of this election, I was both confused and disappointed. How could Americans not want to exercise their right to vote when so many other parts of the world have citizens dying to have this same privilege? I was especially disappointed that voters in my age group, the generation “of change”, decreased in this election. Recently in class we learned about social contracts. Voting, to me, is like a social contract because it is a way to fix and maintain the current state of nature by choosing our own leaders. Similarly to what Rousseau said, people who want individual rights should be compelled to vote. He says, “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains”. Rousseau believes that we need a government that maintains our freedom. This government is most similar to the government we have today in America. We pride ourselves on freedom, however we still have to obey laws and policies.
In John Locke’s “Second Treatise of Government“, he is concerned about the safety of personal property. He wants an administrative process to keep laws in check. Likewise, in our government we have a judicial system that accomplishes this. Most states’ midterm elections had judges on the ballots. If people are concerned about these issues like Locke suggest, then why don’t people vote?
On the contrary, in “Leviathan” Hobbes describes the need for a sovereign government. In order to stray away from the nature of constant war he believes one leader should be in control making decisions. Although our government is a democracy, not a sovereign, we still vote for a president—our version of an extreme ruler. If voters don’t participate in an election then how can they chose the best leader? Likewise, how can they complain when they do not like the leader chosen? If citizens want say in their potential leaders then they need turn out to vote.
When looking at Election Day like a form of a social contract, it is interesting that so many people chose not to vote. This is not a new issue in our country. Unfortunately there are many reasons why people don’t vote. In our discussion, we considered the issue of people feeling as though their vote won’t count. Hello, have you ever seen the movie Swing Vote where one man’s vote determines the president of the United States? However, people realize that this situation is fictional and therefore this issue will always exist considering one vote in such a huge population does seem minuscule. In my opinion by not voting you lose your right to complain about the results.
Another issue is lack of knowledge. On Election Day last week blogger, Matt Walsh, wrote a controversial post titled “Dear Ignorant People, Please Don’t Vote Today. He argues that being an active citizen means being knowledgeable and up to speed about current events. He even proposes including a short multiple-choice test on the ballot to make sure citizens are educated enough on issues to vote. Although I disagree with this idea because it would push our countries progress back about 50 years, I do agree that the lack of education is a flaw in our voting system. Schools should do a better job to educate their students on why voting is so important. By relating this back to social contracts, students will understand that by voting people in office and for proposals they are creating the state of nature in America. When you circle in an oval on the ballot you are voting for individual rights, for freedom, and for democracy. I am hopeful that if we further express that to voters our turnout would improve.