The Solution to Voter Apathy

The 2008 presidential election, one of the most fascinating races in the history of American politics, drew millions of voters who attempted to elect, for the first time, either an African-American president or a female vice president. According to the census bureau, approximately 131 million Americans voted during “Decision 2008.” The same year, Fox’s “American Idol” finale garnered 97.5 million votes cast for the David Archuleta versus David Cook showdown.

Granted, a majority of those text message votes may have come from the cell phones of obsessive 13-year-old girls who ran up their parents’ phone bills while showing their devotion to awkward, adolescent Archuleta. But nonetheless, the comparison is an eye-opener. To think that a decision determining the winner of a singing competition came even close to the votes cast to elect the leader of the free world is a tad bit embarrassing for our country.

Is David Cook singing “The Time of My Life” while covered in confetti more important to Americans than electing an African-American president only about 50 years after an era when black citizens were admonished just for drinking out of a water fountain or taking a seat in a bus? It sure shouldn’t be.

Estimates show that nearly 1.6 million Orange County residents are registered to vote yet, in the 2006 California election, just about 728,000 residents voted for governor. Nearly half of those eligible failed to mail in an absentee ballot or show up to the polling places. In an age where television is unwatchable unless Dad can press pause, relieve himself and press play without having to miss the next kickoff, Americans like the easy way out.

What could be the cure to voter apathy? Cater to laziness. In a disheartening reality, it could be the best way to ensure the promises of democracy.

The problems with the American political voting system stem from the process itself. Although there’s an admirable spirit in being present at the polling place, grabbing an “I Voted” sticker and proving allegiance to democracy, for many it’s not worth the time. Should the single mother of four who works three jobs be expected to sacrifice a day’s pay to punch Jerry Brown’s name in when her vote wouldn’t have been the deciding factor? Likewise, is the financial consultant whose business could be heavily taxed if a Democrat governor were to raise his taxes be obligated to cancel his evening appointments and possibly lose hundreds of dollars of revenue in order to vote for Meg Whitman?

Absentee ballots are a convenient option but, honestly, when was the last time as students we decided, “You know … I’m going to do this homework assignment one week before it’s due”? Maybe some are willing but, for the procrastinators of the world, planning that far in advance to complete an assignment or vote for governor takes effort.

Voters placed faith in the candidates who they hoped would facilitate the revival of California’s struggling economy in last Tuesday’s gubernatorial election. Yet, in doing so, millions of non-absentee voting Californians were expected to hurt the economy. Forfeiting portions of their wages and diminishing their company’s productivity for an hour, workers drove, sat in traffic and stood impatiently at polling places before ultimately pressing some buttons and returning to work. Consequently, vast proportions of the populace stagnantly disregard the opportunity.

For the student sitting in Langson Library cramming for her upcoming biology midterm, wouldn’t it be easier to minimize the PowerPoint slide, click the Internet browser, log on to a secure government website and democratically vote online in an instant, without being excessively inconvenienced?

The retrieval of tax returns and financial statements exhibit the routine nature of accessing sensitive documents online. Actions should be taken toward creating a hacker-proof Internet voting system that accommodates those who want their votes to be counted, but would rather not pause “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in the spirit of patriotism, or sacrifice their wages, gas money or time to get to the polls.

Implementing an online balloting system would cut costs while cutting down on voter apathy in a state desperately seeking financial relief. Efficiency would improve as the necessity for the development, transportation and maintenance of voting equipment featured in polling places would diminish. Allowing for the consolidation of polling places and decreasing the statewide debt, California could still provide various locations for those stubborn residents desperate for the genuine experience of smiling at a little old volunteer lady who hands over an “I Voted” sticker. But for those who could care less about stickers and would rather not be inconvenienced, it’d be handy to minimize Facebook or take two minutes out of a lunch break to securely elect politicians online.

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