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Exercising your rights

Molly Acker | Wednesday, September 22, 2004

As we all know, 2004 is a very significant year in American politics. For many of us, it will mark our first opportunity to vote in a national election. Whether this will be your first or 10th chance to walk into a voting booth, it is important to exercise your right to be heard. If you are not happy and do not vote, you ultimately have no reason to criticize our government. Regardless of whether you’ve recently marched at peace rallies or whether you have “Bombs Over Baghdad” on repeat in your CD player, you have a forum for making your feeling known on Nov. 2.

Studies have shown that 18-24 year-olds will have a big influence on the outcome of this election. According to the latest Rasmussen Report, President Bush and Sen. Kerry are in a dead heat with Bush only slightly leading at 48 percent and Kerry with 46 percent. It is likely this election could again be decided by only a few thousand votes in several key battleground states.

While the right to vote has not historically been open to all, it has made great strides in the past two centuries. At times minorities such as blacks and women have been outlawed from voting. These groups protested, marched, were arrested and even died to ensure their rights. They so passionately believed their vote would not only more accurately give them a voice in our government, but that their vote really could make a difference.

As we saw in 2000, our electoral system is not without its flaws or its hanging chads. Another lesson learned from the Gore/Bush election is that when the race is close, your vote can make the difference. Many young people today overlook the significance of their vote. Whether you are for Bush, Kerry or Nader it is imperative that you vote on Nov. 2. Every single trip to the voting booth has the potential to determine the outcome of the election.

There are also many issues in the upcoming election that many of us feel strongly about. This is your time to choose the candidate who best agrees with your own opinions. While it can be difficult because of conflicting views, decide which are most important to you and vote accordingly.

You still have time to register and get an absentee ballot if you haven’t done so already. This is a right that people have died to ensure for us. As President Kennedy said, “The margin is narrow, but the responsibility is clear.” It is our duty as young Americans to make our voices heard. This is our responsibility. So even if you have a particularly rough night at Club 23 on the first Monday in November, it is your patriotic responsibility to peel yourself off the floor the next morning and cast a vote. We are the future of this country. If you can’t answer the bell and don’t find your way to a ballot box, then you’ve missed your opportunity to make your political views relevant.

Molly Acker is a junior communication and humanistic studies double major at Saint Mary’s. She can be contacted at acke6758@saintmarys.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.