Election 2016: The Importance of Voting

In 1972, a record was set for 1.9 million ballots cast in a Michigan Presidential Primary. Today, that record has been shattered.

Over 2.5 million ballots were cast in the 2016 Michigan Primary vote, setting a voting record.

Why are more voters engaged in the 2016 presidential election in comparison to previous years?

Some say it’s because of the policies being discussed, while others believe it’s because of who is campaigning. College students are, however, tuning in because they want to have a say in what their future holds – or at least they should want to.

But, there is no denying it’s difficult to fully understand politics, so students at Central Michigan University are educating themselves on the candidates and their campaigns in effort to follow the election and cast a vote they fully support.

If you haven’t been paying attention to this election year, then now is the time to begin.

The students that weighed in:

  • Donovan Watts, senior, Detroit, MI (Pi Sigma Alpha Omega Beta National Political Science Honor Society President)
  • Tim Minotas, senior, Oakland Township, MI (College Democrats at CMU President)
  • Ethan Hogan, freshman, NC (College Republicans at CMU member)
  • Casey Weitzel, junior, Traverse City, MI
  • Boomer Wingard, freshman, Grayling, MI

Grand Central: Why should students care and be informed about the 2016 election?

Watts: “Normally, students tend not to vote, or people our age, we tend not to vote just because we don’t think it’s that big of an issue or anything like that. But, for this particular election we have someone(s) who may not be in the best interest of America. So for students, the millennial generation, it’s in our best interest to get out there and get our voices heard and vote. Not only does our vote matter, but we can make an impact and just let our voices be heard.”

Minotas: “It affects us. What is made from our local government, our state government to our federal government, it affects all of us. From economic policies, environmental policies and social policies – it affects us. What I like to tell students is that we are the millennial generation, we are actually the largest generation to date now, and we actually take up a majority of the voting population. If we actually get out to vote, we can actually make that political and social change that our generation would like to see. Right now we do have a lower turn out of voter numbers. And with us not getting out to vote, then politicians don’t care about our issues and our voices are silenced when we don’t participate.”

Hogan: “Politics affects your everyday lives. If your values are not being enforced as you want them to be, such as if you are Republican and President Obama has assigned legislation that you don’t agree with, then that is something you can change by voting for a Republican, or if you are liberal and you want to vote Democrat to further pursue what your ideologies are.”

Weitzel: “You should be pretty well educated on what you are supporting because you are going to come across a lot of controversy and a lot of disagreement with other students. I don’t think you can even come to deciding what candidate you want unless you have clear views on what you believe in. It’s morally better for people to vote for what they believe in versus some sort of rhetoric, idealistic celebrity. Be honest with what you believe in. You can have people who say, ‘Oh no, I’m really in the middle or I’m extremely independent,’ but then that’s almost like a cover up, and that just clouds the entire discussion factor. I know people have views on each side, but I don’t care if you are bipartisan, don’t mask your belief in some sort of charade.”

Wingard: “Students should care about the 2016 election because they are members of the American democracy. Every vote matters, and they should matter. The president shapes the tone of the American politics. This president will probably be appointing the next Supreme Court Justice, which can change the course of the next decade of American politics, and more so the law. The Supreme Court rules on cases that rule on changing laws and how they are observed. This is the first election that I have really been able to pay attention to and vote in, so paying attention to the discussion allows us to learn more about the issues at hand. There is much more immediate effect on local government, that state bureaucrats hold. The rhetoric now seems to be incredibly harsh and some of the candidates seem to be more extremely conservative than past elections. In previous years, candidates were swinging more toward the middle ground and now there are extreme ideas on both sides of the parties.”

GC: What are some major issues and policies of concern? More specifically, what should college students pay attention to?

Watts: “I’m following racial issues. As you can see, racism is still an issue and I always say it’s the biggest issue our country still faces. I pay attention to race relations and what each candidate will or will not do to improve those race relation issues. This election is really uncommon because you don’t have that one candidate from both parties that really stands out. You have a lot of people on the fence with Bernie Sanders, but then you have a lot of people on the fence with Hillary Clinton. Then on the Republican side, you have a lot of people for Donald Trump and a lot of people for Ted Cruz and John Kasich. And with those candidates, they haven’t really said anything that puts them ahead of their opponent. This is one election year where you have to do research. It’s such a close race with the parties.”

Minotas: “For students, most of us have student debt. The way our student loan system is a government policy, those such as myself, will be 30 to 40 thousand dollars in student debt. The way that is done is through government policy and it affects us. A lot of countries, their government offers free tuition or free college paid by the taxpayers. Do you have student debt? Or, do you care about the environment a little bit? Well, this is what the government is doing or can do to protect our environment or not protect our environment. Students what do you care about? See how politics can affect that and this is why you should care. I also think the biggest concern is money in politics. I believe there are two political forces in our political system – it’s people of power and power of money. When people don’t participate the money overtakes our voices. It allows a special interest, the wealthy and the more better off people in this country, to have their agendas passed or get a louder voice in our everyday over 99 percent of the American people. I think the number one concern is money in politics. For me, personally, the environment and climate change is one of the biggest issues of our generation that we will have to face and tackle. Of course, down to student debt and high education funding in general.”

Hogan: “A big one I see for myself is student debt. I don’t believe university or higher education should be free. But I do believe that there is a responsible way to tackle student debt. This is college students’ livelihood as of now, and what burdens them potentially when they graduate. Being informed on the policies and what you support represents your ideologies. For example, energy, if you are a student coming from a household whose father is an oil fielder or holds some sort of job within the oil field and lives in a city that runs on oil, then you don’t want to have the democrat come in and put green energy and solar panels all over the place. Then, your family loses jobs. And vise versa, if your dad works for a solar company, you would want that policy to occur. To be informed, you want your ideologies represented. It just depends on where you are on the spectrum.”

Weitzel: “For me, what I hold in high regard are tax policies, stance on abortion, biomedical ethics, immigration, health care and foreign policy. College students should be paying attention to the policies that are grand scale, and not so much social issues – policies that have a long lasting impact that you can’t just change over night. Students are looking a lot into what is the president’s specific beliefs, which is a good indicator of what direction the nation would go under that president, but not necessarily. That is only one branch of the government and that is only one person. A lot of students want to focus on social issues that are revolutionizing issues, like free college. Pay attention to the policies that you can actually observe and ask yourself, what is the government’s job? And, how will supporting this be effective? Think on a larger scale, what direction, not the exact policies.”

Wingard: “Bernie Sanders wants free college for everyone. While I doubt he can accomplish this, there is compromise that is feasible. With [the] many policies candidates put forth, they may not be achievable, but once watered down, they could be. There is a large human rights aspect of this election – you see many individuals and demographics being discriminated against such as women, gay rights, immigrants, etc., and making sure these people aren’t attacked as they are in rhetoric. I think social issues are far more important than an economic issue, because they are either helping people or attacking people based on who they are or on something they can’t control. Economic issues can be controlled. But, once you set a presence in social issues, it is incredibly hard to handle. Even with gay rights, for example, the Supreme Court decision was extremely important because it struck down attacks on individual rights to happiness. And, that is more important than any economic issue, in my opinion.”

GC: Why should college students vote? Does our vote actually matter?

Watts: “For those who really don’t believe that our vote really matters, just look at the Bernie Sanders versus Hilary Clinton race. A lot of their race has come down to the wire, and it’s either between 48 percent or 51 percent, so it’s really a close race between Hillary and Bernie. So, for those who say our vote doesn’t matter, if you get 20 people to go vote for Bernie or 30 people not voting for Hillary, that will make a difference. If you don’t vote for the candidate you want, then the candidate you really aren’t a fan of is potentially getting an upper hand because you didn’t go out and vote. All together if you don’t like someone more than another person, make sure the person who isn’t the best choice doesn’t win. If we do our own independent research, then we start to see what policies each candidate is for. This election is so important to do research. You need to know what each candidate is for and what you are for. For example, Bernie isn’t necessarily a Democrat – he is a Democratic Socialist. A lot of people take the word socialist and assume bad, as which they should, but with his ideals it’s not necessarily Socialism. That’s why they emphasize the Democratic Socialist part. So now we are seeing Democrat and Republican runnings that aren’t representative of said party.”

Minotas: “By not voting you are allowing your voice to be silenced. I know many people think one vote doesn’t count, ‘My vote doesn’t count.’ If one person says this, then there are always thousands of others thinking the same way. And, if everyone thinks that way, then there are so many votes that are not being accounted for. And, if everyone didn’t think that way and those thousands of people did vote, then that could create a shift and a change in one person being elected or an issue being voted on and being passed. Some people only win by a handful of votes. And that could be the difference of one policy or another policy. At the end of the day, they need to get elected or re-elected, so if they aren’t listening to the people they will and should expect to lose their job in the next election. It’s not only all about the voting process, people need to get out and speak up. Join an organization that works on promoting an issue and really start to participate outside the voting booth and speak out on issues you really care about. It will help politicians see what people want and are speaking loudly on, so they can listen and realize the policy of high concern.”

Hogan: “You can say ‘you don’t care, you’re not going to vote,’ but you want free university. But you don’t vote, and a Republican wins and you’re never going to get free university and you’re stuck paying debt. So not that I agree with it, but if you want free university, then you have to vote for it.”

Weitzel: “It can be discouraging to think ‘The government is rising with so much power, so how much say do I really have? How do I know it’s not just some rich cousin of some politician who is getting to cast the electoral vote?’ Where do people actually draw any inspiration to vote? Do they even feel like their vote matters in any way? Maybe people who are voting for a more left-sided candidate might feel that way. And for those who don’t like any of the candidates, then write your own name in, I guess. You have to pick a side or don’t vote, that’s the reality of it. If you are too paranoid to even make a difference, then don’t complain when it goes the other way. If you don’t know what side you support, then you seem like you are a pretty lost person, who doesn’t think critically about anything. If you don’t have any sort of view or opinion then you are mindless, you are a zombie. I don’t want you to be voting if you aren’t even registered, because then you most likely aren’t educated and I don’t want you to vote anyway. I don’t tell people to just go get out there and vote like everyone likes to say. Yes, you should definitely exercise your right to vote, but if you are educated.”

Wingard: “Students need to understand that even millionaires can only cast one vote. So, although they can influence how many hundreds of people vote, it’s still your vote. People can only cast one, and being able to go out and access that is important. We only have one vote, and it’s important to use whatever you have to change the direction of policy, law and politics, so that whoever is elected rules with a more legitimacy. You get what you get, there is always the green party, but it’s the matter of picking the less of two evils. Most of the time if people don’t like either of the candidates, they just focus on the rhetoric and the surface of debate, while they should really be focusing on policies.”

GC: What makes this election different from years past?

Watts: “Look at the Democrat Party – neither Hillary or Bernie are taking the wheel, they are all like a stalemate right now. In the last two elections with President Obama, he was fully able to really separate himself from the other candidates. In 2008, Hillary ran against President Obama and he was able to put his foot down after the primaries and separate himself from Hillary, and she ended up dropping out. And, with this race, you aren’t seeing that. You aren’t seeing Bernie Sanders separate himself from Hillary or vice versa. You just see them going head to head, and that is uncommon for us to be this far into the primaries without a specific candidate representing the Democratic Party. And from the Republican Party, Donald Trump says how he feels, he goes against the political correctness and people are responding and liking that. A lot of what he says is offensive and not politically correct. To see someone as offensive as he his and gaining so much support, is uncommon. He is being racist, misogynist, sexist, etc. You don’t usually see this from a presidential candidate who is supposed to represent the most powerful nation in the world. I feel like Kasich and Cruz are more representative of the ideal Republican candidate, holding strong conservative values and Trump is just doing his own thing. He is running Republican, but he is doing something we’ve never seen before – he’s like a wild card.”

Minotas: “People are very anti-establishment. People are sick and tired of the status quo of our political system, which is why you are seeing the rises in the Bernie Sanders’, the Donald Trump’s and even the Ted Cruz’s because they are seen as political outsiders. It is the year of the political outsiders that this election cycle is bringing. In 2016, you are letting people such as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz run, who I think are very dangerous. You are seeing a lot of hate and racist rhetoric from those candidates, which I don’t think is a good direction or good outlook on our country in general and to other countries around the world. But, then again, I think people like Bernie Sanders is shedding voice on the issues that we don’t really want to hear about, but is the truth in our politics that need to be spoken and need to be addressed to make a more democratic society. A lot of polls have shown that independent voters make up the majority of the voting population. I personally think a two-party system is part of the problem in our politics. It creates complete gridlock and polarization, and I think people are starting to realize that, which is why you are seeing independent voters on the rise. And, it sheds more voice – people don’t like to be tied down to a party. I don’t think that’s healthy at all. There is division in the parties right now on both sides, creating an independent system. It allows more voices to be heard. I think that is what we need in our politics. The two-party system isn’t really working and only allows certain voices to be heard louder than others.”

Hogan: “It can be intertwined. For example, you see Hillary Clinton who doesn’t want to necessarily raise taxes, but wants to make sure billionaires are paying their fair share. I just encourage people to look at each candidate’s page online, and look at the House seat elections – Senators and House of Representatives. I honestly believe congressional seats are more important than presidential. Congress makes the bills – it’s who represents you completely. The president just enforces it if he supports it or doesn’t. And if he doesn’t, the House can still pass it either way.”

Weitzel: The candidates that are running right now have a lot of polarizing views. They are pretty far on the spectrum, and if people thought Obama was pretty far on the spectrum on the left, then I don’t know what people expect from Bernie or Hillary. I think they have far more left-leaning views than Obama does. And, that’s just the left. You go to the right, and you have Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, and also Kasich and Rubio. Kasich hasn’t won much and Rubio hasn’t completely dropped out of his campaign – he has only suspended it, so he has all his delegates still, but it’s really coming down to two main candidates, Trump and Cruz on the right that D.C. absolutely hates. It creates this really weird dynamic where the parties are scramming for a candidate they really want. It’s just really weird because I don’t think there is one candidate that either side fully supports. Like, I support a lot of Donald Trumps policies, I love plenty of his policies, but I absolutely hate his public persona. And then, Ted Cruz, I like him all-around, but my policies align with Trump, but I cant tell how legitimate that is because his image is so much different. I think the image plays a big part in it. Then, you are hearing socialism on the Democratic side – I personally hate socialism in any form it comes. And, yeah, they are saying Democratic Socialism, but to me it’s all still socialism. It’s the motivation or idealism that we should all be working together, and the government should have more control, which is the complete opposite of what I am interested in. The nation itself was not founded on it. It was founded on having the constitution with the Preamble only listing the four requirements the government is supposed to provide for the people. So then, it comes into question, college students – are you supporting the Constitution or is it more liberal than that?”

Wingard: “This election year is different from past because of the rhetoric that is being passed around. Candidates are having extreme views in their parties, as opposed to past years where they were more moderate over time in order to pick up more votes. Going into the general election, it’s going to be interesting to see that. In order to win, both candidates need to pick up both conservative and liberal views and can’t stick to their extreme views. When they stick to their extreme views they are less likely to pick up individuals on the middle, moderate ground. I feel like everyone feels like every presidential campaign is ground breaking, but other than the rhetoric, I believe this campaign is politics as usual. We do have two outsiders – Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are definite outsiders for their party – and they are definitely contesting the lead for their parties support.”

GC: What are some distinct differences between parties for those who don’t know what party to vote for or support (liberal/conservative)?

Watts: “Capital Punishment, Gun Control, Racial, Economic – all of these issues. Normally, Democrats will be pro-choice, they will be against capital punishment, they wouldn’t mind raising taxes and are for universal health care. While with Republicans, they are for capital punishment, they usually don’t believe in raising taxes, they are pro-life and against universal health care. The easy way to look at it is the Republicans are less government control and the Democrats are more for government control. It all depends on research. Now, it’s just watching and listening. Now, we have to wait to see who the nomination will be so we can go out and vote.”

Minotas: “Conservative and Republican ideals, they believe in individualism – the responsibility is on the individual for everything. Republicans are pro-life, while Democrats are pro-choice. Republicans are more anti-environment, while Democrats are more pro-environment – they are strong advocates of the environment. Republicans, for the most part, believe in de-regulation of our economy – leave it up to the market to do everything. Where Democrats believe in a free market system, but believe it needs to be regulated – the market doesn’t prey on the people and take advantage of them. Liberals are socially progressive, while conservatives and Republicans are not. Democrats and liberals believe in collective action – helping each other as a nation – helping the poor, the middle class, the working families and even taxing the wealthiest people in this country. Where conservatives and Republicans are more toward the higher income bracket and catering to them more. But now, with younger Republicans, who give me hope with this generation, I’m starting to see a shift. I know some Republicans who are pro-choice and pro-environment. Just look up who the candidates are and go to their websites and see where they stand on the issues. Every candidate has an issues portion and it tells you exactly what they want to do, what they stand for, how they are going to pay for it and do it. So, see if you agree or share that same value or not. Find out where you stand on the spectrum.”

Hogan: “There is a clear distinction between the two parties on abortion. When it comes to Fiscal policies, you see Republicans tending to lean toward lower taxes and flat rate with no deductions. And, with Bernie Sanders, especially being on the left side, he wants to increase taxes with his deductions – it’s a whole process. Health care is definitely a big distinction, as Bernie is much further left than Hillary. Hillary is more about keeping the status quo and Obama Care, while Republicans want to get rid of it completely.”

Weitzel: “I don’t support the Republican Party because they are the Republican Party, I support them because they hold more conservative views. Right versus left, the right, (Republican), wants a smaller government, they want to go back to the core of the Constitution, they want to give more power to the people – themselves to govern themselves. They put more responsibility on the people’s shoulders, where they believe people should be responsible for themselves because it creates a healthier environment where people can discuss ideas amongst themselves, where we are going to pass bills that benefit what everybody wants collectively but in a healthy way, and not in some way where a ghost entity of the government has some sort of supreme control over everybody. And then the farther you go to the left, (Democrat), you want more control by the government. A lot of people on the left side say ‘I want to pass abortion because it’s my body, it’s my choice’ – that is a very left-leaning idea. If they were to follow that philosophy, you would think they would be on the right side, because people on the right believe in individual choices and individual liberty where you make your own choices and you self govern. It’s just such a social problem. The right side is all about how to conserve the way of life and tradition.”

Wingard: “The Democratic party is more for government program and government support, while the Republican Party is more for government hands-off support. Democrats will be much more active and interested in civil rights of minority groups, while Republicans won’t discuss them or they just brush them aside when brought up. Economically, Democrats are going to be more pro-government involvement and Republicans will be less government involvement. Socially, Democrats will be much more involved and Republicans will generally dismiss the issue. When it comes to economic issues, I am more moderate-leaning liberal, but socially, I am definitely liberal. It’s not like a flip of the coin, it’s what issue matters most to you. If you have some candidate who is willing to recognize and work with a system to end discrimination then that candidate will do better than any candidate with any strong economic program, but who dismisses claims about social injustice.”

It’s not too late to register for the General Presidential Election and it’s not too late to pay attention to the 2016 election.

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