If so inKlined: The right to vote

As an eighteen-year-old American citizen, I have the right to participate in the workings of my country through voting. Becoming voting age is one of the most exciting things about turning 18. Even though I turned 18 eight months ago, I have yet to vote in any election. This is because I feel utterly politically uneducated, and I don’t think it’s fair of me to cast a vote without being sufficiently knowledgeable about the candidates. I know I’m not the only one with this attitude.

Election Tuesday last week gave Macalester a politically obsessed atmosphere. The rock outside the Campus Center was painted with encouragement to vote, signs were stuck into the grass and messages were written on the sidewalks. I thought these notes were completely acceptable—I saw them as I walked around campus but they weren’t aggressive. However, along with this propaganda came a slew of politically active students camped out in a particular section of campus who asked every passerby if they had voted yet that day. “Asking” may not be the correct word; it was more of an inquisitive yell.

While I understand that Macalester students want to encourage their peers to be as politically active as possible, I found this yelling inappropriate. Harassing students and making them feel bad for not voting is not the correct way to get young people into the voting booths. Every time I left a class on election day to walk across campus, I knew I would be verbally attacked about whether I had voted or not, which made commutes from Dupre to class buildings pretty unpleasant. I, as well as the friends who I was walking with, ended up lying and telling these students that we had voted already when we had not. We shouldn’t have to lie about what we’ve done with our rights at all, but this extremely aggressive hounding by this group of students forced me to say something other than the truth simply so they would leave me alone.

Voting is a right, which means that, as Americans, we are allowed to not take advantage of our voting right. We have the freedom to vote or not to vote; we shouldn’t be judged for the choice we make. However, I felt that if I told the group of students camped out next to the library that I did not vote, they would respond with looks of disapproval or forceful commands to go vote as soon as possible. I felt as though my freedom to make a decision about my role as a citizen was compromised as a result of this harassment.

I knew coming to Macalester meant I would be in a very politically active atmosphere, so I’m not surprised that students are enthusiastic about voting. But this enthusiasm went too far. Being new to Minnesota, I am not familiar with political candidates here and don’t feel comfortable voting. As I said, I don’t feel sufficiently politically educated and, as a result, don’t want to vote. I would think that in a place as accepting as Macalester, I wouldn’t be judged for deciding not to vote, but sadly, this was not the case. In the future, I would hope that students can go about election day in peace, without being yelled at about their political decisions.