Commentary

(Not So) Record Turnout

Just a few weeks ago, Andover students took to the polls to decide who would become the next School President. The votes were cast, counted and then announced to each student’s delight, dismay or general disdain. It was not the results of the election, however, that caught my eye. Instead, it was the number of votes cast in the entire election itself: 728. That’s right, a mere 728 students voted in the election out of the 1,106 that attend our school. Each and every student heard the candidate’s speeches at the All-School Meeting. Ignorance was not an obstacle here. So what was it that kept a third of our student body from participating in such an important election, and what does this mean for our school and entire country in the future? On the night of the election, one might imagine that the school was abuzz with the excitement of voting. However, for many it was just like any other night comprised of the usual homework routine. The election was a popular topic of conversation, but many were either unsure who to vote for or pondered whether they would bother to vote at all. It is rather dismaying that the election of School President, arguably the top student leadership position available on campus, would elicit such little excitement. In my short time at Andover, I have come to realize that the majority of students view the student government as one thing: relatively meaningless. Sure, there is a president, and he has opinions and an agenda, but does any of that really affect the average student? This thought process isn’t unique to Andover. The assumption that the government is ineffective plagues Americans throughout the country. On March 28, 2012, “The Economist” published an article stating that of a group of 1000 people surveyed, 63 percent agreed with the statement that the model our government uses “no longer works for the majority of Americans.” This is a shocking statistic and raises many questions about the state of democracy in the United States. Just like Andover students, many Americans do not see how the decisions made at the very top affect the general populace in their everyday life. By choosing not to vote, they are showing their disengagement and general unhappiness with the political system. But not voting does nothing to solve the problems of the American people. Without their input, no change can ever take place. The gap of understanding between voters and candidates is also a cause for poor voter turnout. Politicians can come off as snobby, full of empty promises and unsympathetic to the needs of the average American. Americans may feel as if they have nothing in common with a candidate like Mitt Romney, who comes from a completely different socio-economic background than most. With gas prices rising across the country, many struggle to fill up their tanks; Romney’s wife drives “a couple of Cadillacs,” as he was quoted saying at a dealership in Tucson, AZ. Although there is a clear disconnect between the average American and a politician such as Romney, this is no excuse for not voting. In fact, discontent with the government is even more of a reason to cast your ballot. Mitt Romney’s job, just like any other politician’s, is to please and work for the public. Without public support and funding, his entire campaign would cease to exist. In essence, every single person has a say in what the government does. It is up to the people to make their voice heard and force the government to take their problems into account. Democracy cannot function without the opinion and participation of the general people. This applies to Andover just as much as it does to the entire country. If a student does not vote in the election, they are saying one of two things: they do not believe in the idea of a fair election, or they simply do not care. That apathy can be clearly seen at Andover. Only two thirds of the student body participated in the latest election. With few legitimate hindrances to voting, it can be assumed that the majority who did not cast their vote did not care to have a say in who was elected. They gave up the chance to make their own voice and opinions heard. If a student does not vote, they forgo the right to complain about any school policies or practices; their vote might have changed something. Our student government’s purpose is to make a change to benefit the entire school population. However, the student government cannot do this without the support and feedback of the students. Without the votes and input of the entire student body, meaningful change can never occur and benefit the student body. When the next election at Andover comes around, vote or don’t vote. It’s up to you. But realize this: without voting, you lose your ability to empower change. And really, if it can be done as simply as checking a box, what have you got to lose? Katia Lezine is a new Lower from Winston-Salem, NC.