President Barrack Obama’s visit to Madison on Tuesday was reminiscent of the excitement generated during the presidential elections of 2008. Throngs of supporters gathered hours before Obama was to speak, tightly packed and anxiously waiting. From an outside perspective, the crowd 26,000 strong would appear to demonstrate the same fervor that saw 15 million new voters in 2008. Bands played and politicians spoke while occasional chants of “Obama, Obama, Obama” murmured throughout the crowd. The frenzy that was Obama’s walk to the podium could have been registered on the Richter Scale. For a moment it seemed like Deja vu all over again. Yet this is not the presidential election of 2008 and the midterm elections don’t garner nearly as much attention or excitement. Outside of Obama’s rally, where is all of the excitement? Where are the supporters going door to door? Why does this election not matter?
The voter turnout in 2008, among those of age, was 56.8% the highest since 1968. According to Gallup, the predicted turnout for the midterm elections is well under 40%. Apparently, out of the three arms of government, one appears to matter more than the other. Do people not understand the importance of Congress? Their personal representatives in the Capital? Obama said on Tuesday that, “The biggest mistake we could make right now is to let disappointment or frustration lead to apathy and indifference.” Regardless of party affiliation, the fact that less than half of our nation votes during midterm elections is a travesty. The opportunity to free and fair elections is a right experienced by only a few of the world’s countries and most of us react to it with apathy. The attitude that one vote cannot make a difference has been documented numerous times as false. Even big elections can come down to multiple recounts decided only by a handful of those who took the time to express their opinions at the polls. In the 2008 Minnesota Senate race, Al Franken secured his seat only after a recount confirmed he had won by 312 votes out of 2.9 million.
As is usual in non-presidential years, it appears young voters may never make it to the polls. Compared to the gigantic numbers of young voters in 2008, this drop would be a major setback. Despite real progress, we still face great obstacles on both local and national levels. Young people can become the change they voted for in 2008 by keeping the momentum rolling through 2010. Voting is crucial and defines who we are as a society. This has been seen time and again, but only by those active enough to care. Get out to vote in 2010 and make a difference both in your community and nationally. Let’s not see something new this election, let’s experience some Deja vu and break voter records!