Could Voter Apathy Quell the Blue Wave this November?

We’re less than a month away from the November midterm elections and the only reason I know that is because I constantly hear about it every few hours. Across campus ASUCI have set up tables to register eligible students to vote and have representatives coming to classes to discuss the process. I even had student government come to my apartment telling me to register to vote in this district since it’s “a highly contested one” over this past summer. My professors send out emails telling me how to register and put reminders on the first slides of their PowerPoints every class. Every time I watch a YouTube video, the ad that runs before is either (another) Katie Porter campaign ad telling me why Republicans and Mimi Walters are terrible or an ad telling me if enough young people go out to vote, we can flip Congress blue. Just this past week, I along with many other UCI students got bombarded while waiting for the bus by the lovely people from the Today Show on NBC asking if we were going to vote. Needless to say, I’m over the desperate pleas of politicians and academics to vote. Politicians, their volunteers and the media – especially Democrats and leftists – have clearly forgotten about voter apathy. While voting is a liberty that ought not be taken for granted, if the left wants any chance of taking over the House or Senate, they should be weary of oversaturation and aggressive, constant campaigning.

Voting is essential within a constitutional republic, but only those who take the time to consider the nuance of the issues and ignore predictable rhetoric from candidates should vote. I encourage every student on campus to take the time to get involved in politics and avoid the hyper partisanship currently plaguing politics because it is important that people go and vote for good, hardworking representatives to serve us and our community. Those who choose to be apathetic and not use their vote have the right to do so, but those individuals who refuse to participate can’t complain if the country doesn’t go in the direction they prefer. However, just because the political climate has escalated exceptionally within the past two years is not a good enough answer to encourage more voter participation, especially if that population is not well educated or engaged on the issues being addressed. While everyone should have the opportunity to vote, that doesn’t automatically mean they should exercise it.

However, the over saturation of constant messages to vote might be a bit tolerable if candidates, especially Democrats and leftists, campaigned on actual issues rather than campaigning on “being against Trump” and degrading their political opposition. For example, I can tell you exactly what Katie Porter stands against (i.e. tax cuts, offshore drilling, anything related to Trump), but I can’t necessarily say what she plans to improve within the local community or the concerns I have over traffic and affordable housing in Orange County. I know there are plenty of students on this campus who are into politics as much as I am and deeply care about what happens at the state and federal level of government, however most of the student population probably wouldn’t be able to tell me the name of the current Vice President or what the 8th amendment protects. This isn’t an assault on intelligence, but it does illustrate where most interests of college students lie. Most young adults care about making enough money to pay for rent and textbooks rather than the mundane aspects of partisan politics. In short, politicians should focus campaigning on the issues rather than repeat the mistake of Democrats in 2016 by focusing on rhetoric that the average eligible voter isn’t concerned with.

The local efforts made by those on campus to encourage students to vote, while mostly well intentioned, could have the opposite effect on college students by increasing voter apathy due to oversaturation. Rather than ASUCI and professors telling students to register to vote and listening to rhetoric from political candidates, what the university and student government could do to invite thoughtful political discussion on campus is host a forum for the prominent candidates in local elections. This way interested, potential voters could hear about policies and inform themselves in a convenient way instead of relying on 30 second political ads they see online or on TV. Additionally, I would like to see more of a commitment to free speech and bi-partisanship from UCI by inviting conservative leaning candidates and activists to campus to bridge the divide in the current political climate. Rather than being told how and when to vote, I would prefer to make my own informed, well-reasoned decision.

Rebecca Rinaldi is a fourth year Criminology, Law and Society major. She can be reached at rinaldir@uci.edu.