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Voting seriously

Observer Scene | Thursday, February 19, 2004

Most students on the Notre Dame campus do not seem to think student body presidential elections matter very much. Possibly they are right. However, the attitude of the student body in the last election infuriated me. I encountered far too many students who clearly voted on what they perceived to be the candidate’s personalities instead of genuinely considering the candidate’s proposals. This is far more disturbing then the stereotypically shallow high school popularity contest it resembles; students apparently did not even vote for a candidate they personally liked as much as against a candidate they thought they might personally hate.

I do not intend to criticize the new student body president, or to criticize anyone who compared the candidate’s platforms and goals and chose to vote for Adam Istvan. However, anyone who did choose to vote for Istvan should have made sure they were voting based on their faith in his ability to achieve the things he ought to achieve and not on a poorly based or secondhand notion of Charlie Ebersol’s personality.

There are cases where it is legitimate to oppose a candidate on the grounds that he or she is not a good person. Politics should not be a moral wasteland, whether it be on the level of student government or in the highest government offices. However, in the case of our student body presidential elections, there was no possible moral issue that should have effected any student’s vote more than the legitimacy of the candidates’ platforms.

I am not attempting to attack or defend Ebersol himself. I don’t know what kind of person Ebersol really is. Nevertheless, I know Ebersol as well as many of the students who voiced the opinion that they weren’t going to vote for him because they didn’t like him.

This attitude is juvenile, and epitomizes exactly what can go wrong on a larger scale with a governmental system which our country goes to great effort to defend despite its flaws. Not taking the time to look past the unreliable impression of a candidate’s personality churned out by the rumor mill leads to poor decisions and unjustified biases on the parts of too many voters.

If you want to justify your right to vote, figure out what it is you want done and decide who you think is best qualified to do it. If you don’t care about an election enough to spend any time researching a candidates’ actual qualifications for an office, don’t vote. And more than that, don’t encourage people’s tendency to exaggerate and misconstrue the actions and possible flaws of people they can’t possibly claim to know or understand.

We are not high school students, and student government is not the prom court. Don’t base your opinion or your vote on rumors.