Firstly, I would like to add this disclaimer: I don't vote in Minnesota. I will not include any thoughts about the Minnesotan elections, not only because that is not the purpose of this column, but also because I am pretty ignorant about the issues.
I have been a registered voter since I turned 18-years-old. I remember that was one of the cool rights of passage of turning 18 buying cigarettes and pornography did not appear to me, but I did want to register to vote. I still remember seventh grade social studies class, when my teacher said with such force, Voting is your duty! Or the other favorite: If you dont vote, you cant complain. That message has stayed with me since then. I have managed to vote absentee in almost all of the elections since coming to college, including the presidential election of 2004.
I believe that everybody, passionate about politics or not, needs to voice their opinion. Some do not take this duty seriously (and I do have to admit that I have forgotten a couple times). But we cannot afford to be like Paris Hilton, touting the importance of voting to the press and then forgetting to even register. Certainly this is an important election, one that will have an impact on our lives as we elect new senators, new governors, new representatives and new state legislators.
As seniors become adults, moving into the real world, nothing should make the members of the class of 2007 more scared than their future. We are all facing life in a world less sheltered than St. Olaf, and this election will affect that reality. Issues of abortion, taxes (which, yes, we will have to pay), healthcare and healthcare insurance (which, yes, we will have to pay for), and others are floating around in the news. Pop the bubble and look around there is no better way to acknowledge and participate in the real world than voting.
There is one annoyance to voting: partisanship. Nothing is less productive than having a political discussion with a friend of a different political orientation. I have tried and find that I am amazed we are still friends. I do believe in political debates in their proper times and places; I do not believe in personal digs, needless shouting, insults, fierce attempts at coercion, cheating and other underhanded political practices. I believe that politics are personal, and if someone wants to put them out there and be active for a cause, that is wonderful. It is not acceptable to berate someone for their involvement in a cause because that is their personal choice.
When politics become personal, people become frustrated and discouraged. Politics should be about presenting issues and fostering discussion and then allowing the constituents to vote as they see fit. It becomes tiresome after being repeatedly courted for votes, and that shows in the response of the voters.
There is a point where politics becomes frustrating and discouraging, but this should not stop anyone from voting. Vote in private or tell everyone you know who you voted for and engage them in respectful discussion.