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Column: Youth Vote Too Critical For Indifference

This story was written by Emily Nohr, Daily Nebraskan
A couple of weeks ago, I flipped out. Went ballistic. Absolutely bonkers.

What precipitated this meltdown? A good friend of mine told me that she was not going to vote because she "didn't care." She made the mistake of breaking this news to me while I was driving home for Fall Break. My peaceful ride through the Nebraska prairies was shattered by the devastating news.

With all the hype about the "young vote" and our accessibility to information, it is nearly impossible to not have an opinion. I don't care who you vote for, just as long as you take the time to do some research, register and, of course, cast your vote for whom you think would best lead our country.

And what about the people who don't vote? Many claim that their voice doesn't matter in Nebraska, but this year they're especially wrong. This election, Nebraska has the potential to split its electoral votes - so every vote matters.

History shows a less-than-great participation by young voters. During the Vietnam War, the 26th amendment was ratified and granted people ages 18 and older the right to vote. The following election, only slightly more than half of the 18-24 age group showed up to the polls, the Federal Election Commission reported.

Fast forward a few years. Only 47 percent of people between 18 and 24 showed up at the polls in 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

This year, young voters have the ability to change these numbers for the better and have their voices heard. Seventy-eight percent of 18- to 29-year-olds have registered to vote as of an Oct. 20 Gallup Poll.

Although I'm proud of my generation, I'm concerned about the 22 percent who still aren't registered to vote. What is stopping every unregistered voter from taking three minutes to fill out a voter registration application? Is it laziness? Selfishness? I-just-don't-care-and-would-rather-play-PS2-or-watch-Project-Runway-ness?

Our generation is going to feel the heat from previous generations if we don't step it. Our generation is known as lazy and apathetic, but with this election, we have the opportunity to take a stand and change that stereotype.

If we don't step up and vote, our Baby Boomer parents will feel so fabulous when they wag their fingers at us and say "I told you so" to our ambivalence. In reality, I feel like we're only cheating ourselves if we don't get more representation from the 18- to 29-year-olds.

What's even more disappointing is that the same Gallup Poll found reported that only 66 percent plan on actually voting. It's great that we have young people so motivated and so supportive of a candidate, but why even bother if there is no intention of actually going to the polls?

We've been inundated by information regarding this election for over a year and a half. It's definitely not hard to find information about the candidates or issues on a campus like UNL. I know I have been badgered a good 31 times to register to vote while casually strolling through the City Campus Union. And the flyers and posters covering campus - as well as the convenience of casting my vote in the Nebraska Union - are constant reminders of the importance of Nov. 4.

For all 78 percent of registered youth, here's my message to you: Let's look past our candidates, the color of their skin and the swollenness of their glands and see them as stand-up men who want to lead our country.

To become an educated voter, take advantage of the abundant resources available. Check out votesmart.org, the home of Project Vote Smart, a nonprofit organization whose sole purpose is to defend democracy. The site gives excellent information regarding candidates, issues and basically everything you need to know to bea solid voter.

It took me until recently to find the site, but I'm so glad I stumbled upon it. My favorite feature is the section where you can type in your state and a simplified version of the bills going through legislation in your state.

I don't care who you vote for. By this stage in the game, who really needs help in deciding? This is a shout-out to my unmotivated friend, as well as those who just aren't going to vote: You have to care. It's your right and your privilege as an American.

You have the right to be indifferent about a lot of things - whether you will wear magenta or lime socks tomorrow - but when it comes to the general election, you must make a decision.

Bestowed upon you was the right to vote. It's not mandatory that you take advantage of it, but it is a complete waste if you do not.

P.S. Friend, don't hate me for calling you unmotivated. I really do love you. Still want to do dinner with me next week?