Despite the efforts of campaigns like “Vote or Die” and “Rock the Vote,” many young people are refusing to head to the booths to choose a president on November 2. But it is not always apathy that keeps them from the ballot box. In the case of many MSU students, it is frustration with the political system that leads them to believe that neither Bush, Kerry nor Nader deserve their vote.[sej]
Tommy Simon, a social relations and English sophomore, is affiliated with the campus group Students for Economic Justice. SEJ is an anarchist-influenced group whose main current cause is exposing the university’s ties to sweatshops. He is abstaining from voting for president. He is, however, casting his ballot on local matters.
“Bush and Kerry’s differences are only in rhetoric,” he said. “I’m a political activist, 100 percent. I am not voting for President because the day after the election, war will still be there- social injustice will still be there. It’s discouraging as an activist because no matter what guy is in there, the same thing happens,” Simon said. He made it clear that he is not telling others not to vote. He hopes that everyone will do what they each think is best.
[cartoon] “I won’t vote for Nader because ideologically, I feel that our centralized government is so removed from the people that the set up itself is illegitimate,” Simon added. He would like to see a progressive act that could at least start to right the wrongs of the past. He explained that he would like to see real change. “Successful political movements in the past have never happened through a ballot box. To get there they had to do something—early 1900s labor strikes, sit ins for civil rights, the Boston Tea Party, women’s suffrage, and the anti Vietnam demonstrations—people have to get involved but not through the U.S. electoral process,” Simon said.
Maggie Ryan, an international relations and political theory & constitutional democracy senior, is a member of the activist group Direct Action, based East Lansing and unaffiliated with MSU. The group’s website flashes the words “Bush wins, Kerry wins, we lose.” They also read not only mainstream media but other sources like regularly, to broaden their views beyond messages filtered through corporate news.
“[Some] people don’t agree with the system,” she said. “The idea of people ruling over others just doesn’t make sense. Direct Action is activist group-they definitely care what is going on. They just don’t agree with the political system or those that are selected to be leaders.” Ryan also said that some people who ascribe to a certain party do not agree with many of the standpoints, but liberals tend to think it is at least better to fix things in the short term.
[protest] Other students have less activist reasons for not voting on Tuesday. On the eve of Election Day, international relations senior Mike Griffith will be dragging himself to the bar. “I’m hoping to be incoherent enough not to remember voting,” he said. “The whole political process is like drunkenly yelling out slogans anyway. I mean, the big issue today is that Cheney’s daughter is a lesbian. What kind of discourse is that?”
Griffith explained that he thinks the American political process is lacking in substance, which deters him from heading happily to the ballot box. “I just don’t think anyone has any real answers for our problems right now,” he said. “Neither [candidate] has a real plan to deal with Iraq, and either candidate will be stuck with the mess.”
Other students are disillusioned with the voting system because of the Electoral College that placed anunbalanced importance on the state of Florida in the 2004 Presidential race. Students like Lucus Hansen, a political theory senior, have lost faith in the political process because of the last election.
“I just don’t believe in the system,” Hansen said. “The last election proved it doesn’t mean anything. The people voted, and it didn’t matter.” Whether non-voting students are frustrated with the Electoral College or acting out against the current system, it is important to consider why they choose to abstain.
Rather than attempting to bring unregistered Americans to the voting booths in masses, Ryan suggests that the political leaders take into consideration why so many citizens refrain from practicing their right to vote.
“A broad number of people not voting says something about our political system- either that people do not believe in it, or they do not care about it, but both speak poorly of it,” she pointed out.

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