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ISSUE 120 VOL 8 PUBLISHED 11/17/2006

Turnout tricks annoy

By Whitney Hills
Copy Editor


Friday, November 17, 2006

Cry “havoc,” and let slip the dogs of war. Last Tuesday was nerve-wracking in more ways than one: While most were thinking about the vote they were to cast, a small but insistent population devoted its concern to the votes of others. Like baying bloodhounds relentlessly pursuing a doomed fox, solicitors from assorted political organizations slavered after any undemocratic-looking human in their path and grilled the person as per her or his intentions to vote.

There must be something truly special about Election Day to inspire such forwardness, particularly given that the majority of Minnesotans avoid interaction with strangers like Oprah Winfrey avoids a salad. But Tuesday’s harpies, with their uncanny ability to smell fear, would seize upon any individual looking even slightly suspect. The resourceful among us scavenged extra “I voted” stickers, hoping for some camouflage. Only when wielding the tiny red circles like a magic shield did it become possible to make it through Buntrock Commons relatively unaccosted.

I imagine most students who were just trying to navigate their Tuesday were supremely annoyed when confronted by demands that they drop what they were doing and beeline for the nearest polling booth. (Not including most poli sci majors, who, rumor has it, were given the day off to indulge in assorted bacchanalia and await the tallies for whatever Candidate Dream-boat might be victorious.)

I know that after I’ve woken up at the crack of 10 a.m. and have just emerged from my residence hall, the only thing on my mind is whether they'll have mac and cheese at the Caf or if I'll have to eat salami instead. I do not appreciate unsolicited interrogation as to my voter status, nor having a flurry of campaign literature thrown in my face like a bad card trick. The same goes for pre-election phone calls and visits to residence halls: of course candidates have the right to advertise, but that doesn't mean people are going to respond with enthusiasm when someone invades their time and space.

In past years, I have become considerably less ambivalent about voting, but it was certainly not due to enthusiasm for any candidate nor “encouragement” from those who felt compelled to cram it down my gullet. Most people, especially those who are not particularly jazzed about voting to begin with, seem to concur that being harassed makes them not want to vote at all, much less for any particular candidate.

Certainly, there is nothing inherently wrong with encouraging others to vote or speaking candidly about one’s own political views. There are, however, appropriate and inappropriate manners by which to accomplish this. If you wish to encourage others to vote, an even-keeled conversation at dinner will probably go further than pouncing upon them out of the blue.

Then again, the rigorous demands of partisanship seem to have turned most would-be political conversations into red-faced, blubbering toddler tantrums. It is extremely rare that I hear anyone discuss their political views without copious amounts of spite or disdain for whomever might think differently.

I doubt many people on this campus would dispute that the act of voting itself is an important thing. Despite being such a shining white beacon of democracy, the United States lags behind about 130 other countries in voter participation, even those with compulsory voting laws and those that are impoverished, dangerous, or newly democratic. Only about 40 percent of voting-eligible American citizens cast ballots in non-presidential elections. The reasons behind such voter apathy are numerous and extend throughout political, individual and cultural spheres. Regardless, working to improve voter turnout is a noble endeavor. But everyone should find their own reason(s) to vote, and when it comes down to it, an individual’s ballot is their business and no one else’s.

Copy Editor Whitney Hills is a senior from Chicago, Ill. She majors in English with concentrations in Japan studies, in linguistics and in women’s studies.





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