A single grain of rice may tip the scale


Lisa Skogsøy, School News Reporter


Congratulations! Your 18th birthday is such an important date. But do youth really know the extent of the power handed to them?

The idea of a democracy is that people have the power. The US was built on people working together and eventually creating the democracy that citizens see today. But when the rate of voting is taken into consideration, the US has a poor outcome in voter participation. A lot of people choose not to vote, especially the younger generation. What makes a great nation that is so focused on freedom and civil rights, refrain from voting? Especially in local, state and congressional elections.

Credit; Rollo McFloogle

Voter turnout in the United States is incredibly low compared to similar countries, said Donald Green. He’s a political scientist at Columbia University in New York City. In fact, U.S. voter turnout ranks 31 out of 35 developed countries — nations with advanced economies and a heavy use of technology. That’s according to a Pew Research Center study.

The American people engage to an extent in political issues, and most people are interested in how their country is run, but there are several reasons as to why people refrain from participating in elections that seems to outweigh people’s political interests. When you ask people why they choose not to vote, a lot of the time the answer is, “I’m too busy.”

Why do people have such a limited understanding of how important voting is to the democracy?  It all starts with education. In some European countries, children start learning about the government already in elementary school, while in the US there is one required class.

“We need to start young. And emphasize at young ages that you NEED to participate. It makes you feel good, and it’s kind of fun when you engage in something and see the results. And if it is something that can help a whole lot of people, the city, the town, the village, the neighborhood you live in, so much the better. We have to make it cool to be involved.” Said Mike Palmer, a Government teacher at Jonathan Alder high school.

Palmer has been teaching high schoolers about the American government for over two decades. He grew up in a loud, Italian-blooded family where topics of political nature were not shied away from, but encouraged. “It was not so much that they told us to be politicly active, we just were as a family. There is an old saying that there are two things you don’t discuss in polite company, religion and politics. And that was all we ever talked about! Our large family gatherings tended to be a bit loud…and interesting.” Proving how important it is to teach children about the workings of society already at a young age, to start an interest in how things are done, and most importantly hat you can change things for the better by stating your opinion. People don’t care about what they don’t know. There is only so much you can learn about the government in a semester.

People with higher education (college degrees etc.) have a higher voter turnout than less educated people, according to Barry Burden, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, because they are more likely to look for information about politics, and they are more likely to have friends who vote. “If you are not informed on something then you can’t make an educated decision” said Emily Matessa, who is planning to vote when she turns 18 because when she votes she has the right to complain about political issues. “I don’t like Donald Trump because he wants to build a wall between the US and Mexico. If that happens where would I get my avocados from?” added Matessa humorously.

For years Palmer has encouraged future voters, and informed them of the importance of voting.  “This generation has access to all kinds of information. It’s not a matter of not being able to access information it is a matter of wanting to. If you respect yourself and if you respect the world, then you want to be informed. You want to know what’s going on. Partly because you don’t want to mess it up,” added Palmer.

There are still some little things we can do to encourage people to vote in their otherwise busy lives. Palmer thinks that if we make election day a national holiday and make it so that people don’t have to go to work, it would make the election stand out more. Perhaps then people would be more willing to go vote.

When you ask the question, “Why is it important to vote?” people of all ages seem to have a problem answering, or the answer is partly correct but is missing something in the scheme of things.

“It’s nonsense to me that people don’t think their vote matters. You take one brick out of a wall and the wall collapses.””

— Mike Palmer

Palmer stated, “Voting is our most important civic duty, it’s how we choose the people that are going to run this country. Every individual vote counts. For me personally it is one time where you get to express your political opinion, where it has a direct effect on who’s going to be running things. With the knowledge that if collectively enough people think the way I do, this person will get elected or this issue will pass. THAT does not happen if people stay home. It’s nonsense to me that people don’t think their vote matters. You take one brick out of a wall and the wall collapses.”

There will always be some reason for choosing not to vote, like the trouble of having to register, the lines to the polls are too long or for some people there are simply not enough parties to vote for, and that may also relate to people who feel discouraged to vote because they feel that their vote does not count. Voting for a third party may seem like a waste of time, but in the past there have been examples of third parties rising to power. Politicians respond to the popular vote and over time the Republicans and Democrats have added views of the third parties to their platforms to appease the people. It all starts with the people wanting change. If you want change, change it. That lies in the core of a democracy.


Voting is the key to a well-run society. People might say off hand that they are not interested in politics, but politics lie in all we do and everything we are.