HWS Votes co-president David Luna ’14 recently authored a guest essay on the importance of voting that appeared in the Finger Lakes Times.
In his essay, he notes, “As co-president of HWS Votes, I frequently get asked, ‘Why should I vote?’ and ‘What’s in it for me?'” and offers in response:
“Politics, I believe, gives individuals the tools to modify the status quo. When the electorate is a diminutive and small group of individuals, election results, policy agendas and policy decisions will reflect the concerns of only those few elite voters. The call for increased voter participation is simple: if only a small group participates, we cease to be a democracy and instead turn into an oligarchy.”
Luna goes on to explain the initiatives taking place on campus to increase voter registration and voter participation, including through HWS Votes and TurboVote.
In addition to his involvement with HWS Votes, Luna is a columnist and opinion editor for The Herald and a Campus Election Engagement Project volunteer.
His full article follows.
Finger Lakes Times
Best way to change government: Get involved
David Luna • Guest Appearance • October 7, 2012
It was Nov. 2, 2010, and votes were being cast for midterm elections. As I walked with my mother that breezy morning to the polling station, I could not help but notice Hispanic demonstrators peacefully gathering to proclaim their distaste for the treatment of Hispanic individuals locally and nationally. I approached a demonstrator I knew named Salazar and
asked, “If you harbor such feelings, why don’t you make your voice much stronger by voting?”
Salazar’s response was overflowing with passion.
“Young man,” he said. “There are too many barriers in the way to get the Hispanic community’s voice heard. And besides, government is corrupt and prejudices will flush out our initiatives; voting will not solve a thing.”
As co-president of HWS Votes, I frequently get asked, “Why should I vote?” and “What’s in it for me?”
Politics, I believe, gives individuals the tools to modify the status quo. When the electorate is a diminutive and small group of individuals, election results, policy agendas and policy decisions will reflect the concerns of only those few elite voters. The call for increased voter participation is simple: if only a small group participates, we cease to be a democracy and instead turn into an oligarchy.
HWS Votes is a student group on campus that focuses on voter education, issue forums, student rallies and policy panels to name a few. This election year, we also are informing people of TurboVote, a national non-profit dedicated to making the voting process as simple as possible so the most voices can be heard. It enables people to request voter registration and/or ballot request forms online, and then sends them by mail to the recipient – including a postagepaid and pre-addressed envelope. Forms just need to be signed and dropped in the mailbox to receive a ballot in return mail. Just like that, individuals can exercise their rights.
Wrestling with Salazar’s remarks now, I realize that political organizing is taking place, but the demonstrations were misguided. The demonstrators’ motives deserve respect, but why stand idly by condemning government and refusing to take part in politics when it can be so much more effective to work with the mechanisms the system provides? Your opinions are crucial; kept to yourself, however, they have no impact. They will have impact if you exercise your opinions through voting.
If Salazar were to say the same thing to me now, I’d tell him: “Vote because your community is on the line. The elected officials and judges you vote to retain make daily decisions about crime prevention, laws and law enforcement, and safe and affordable homes. Vote because your financial security depends on it. Elected officials decide how much of your wealth to invest in public services and how to share the tax burden. Don’t you want a say in all that?”
When people complain about government, they proclaim government will not address their views and is controlled by corruption. If one enters political discourse with this premise, the opening for change is instantly narrowed. Those who feel that government is unconcerned with the plight of the “common man” should become involved. Protesters and naysayers need to have a better idea; simply gathering won’t solve any problems. Only by voting and participating in government can anyone make politicians understand and address the “common man’s” struggle to be heard. If not, we will continue to prove William E. Simon correct, “Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don’t vote.”
David Luna is a member of the Class of 2014 at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He is president of HWS Votes, a columnist and opinion editor for “The Herald” at HWS and a Campus Election Engagement Project volunteer.