Preparing for Presidential Elections
The start of 2016 means one thing among others – the culmination of months of Presidential campaigns.
All the talk comes to a head this November when citizens will respond with their votes to elect a new President. However, the process starts soon, with Oklahoma primaries starting on Mar. 1.
In order to vote in these primaries, people must register by Feb. 5. According to Assistant Professor of Political Science Dr. Wendy Whitman-Cobb there are many different ways to register.
“Probably the easiest way to do this … is Google ‘voter registration Oklahoma,’” she said. “You can download one of their forms. It’s a simple one-page form. You fill it out, and you can send it in.”
For those who want to locate a physical copy of the form, Whitman-Cobb said most any government office would have registration forms.
Voters will also decide who gains what Congressional seats and, depending on the region, what different acts will go into effect. However, the main attraction has been the presidential campaigns, which Whitman-Cobb has equated to a reality show because of Republican candidate Donald Trump.
“He’s really changed the game in the election this year,” she said. “That’s probably the biggest difference this year – the hoopla surrounding Trump.”
She mentioned Trump’s influence on revived hot button issues such as illegal immigration. Other issues on the minds of voters and candidates include health care, terrorism, taxes, the environment and the economy.
Whitman-Cobb mentioned that what issue matters most depends on one’s party affiliation. She gave a note of caution to balance news sources when researching various issues, since the decisions voters make can determine what policies go into place.
“It’s what we base our government off of,” she said, “this idea that we are represented in the federal government by the people we elect. If you are not voting, arguably, you are not having your voice heard.”
Associate Professor of Government Dr. Tony Wohlers added onto this statement, further emphasizing the gravity of the right to vote.
“There are many ways to influence decision-making in a functioning democratic system,” he said. “However, voting is one of the most important ones. As informed citizens interested in a functioning democracy, we are called upon to take advantage of this political right.”
Both Whitman-Cobb and Wohlers cited recent declines in voter output in the 18-24 age range, emphasizing the need for student voting output.
“The influence of the younger generation on election outcomes are diminishing and so are the policy issues that are important to them,” Wohlers said. “Hence, it is critical for students to remain active in politics and vote during elections.”
Whitman-Cobb corroborated this statement.
“If you want free college education, you have to be willing to support a candidate and be willing to show up to vote,” she said. “If you want a higher minimum wage, you have to show up to vote.
“If you aren’t willing to do that, the candidates will not pay attention to your issues,” she said.
Whitman-Cobb also addressed the common conception that individual votes will not count when all is said and done. She cited the 2000 election between Al Gore and George Bush, where the difference in Florida came down to 535 votes.
“Try telling 535 people in Florida that their vote didn’t count,” she said. “You’re never going to know if your vote really will count until it’s all over. So why take the chance and miss out on the opportunity?”
She also mentioned voters need to not only take the opportunity but to make it count.
“You’re fulfilling your democratic duty,” Whitman-Cobb said. “This is the fundamental cornerstone of what our government means and what our founding fathers fought for. Honor that in the act of voting and take it seriously.”
Wohlers agreed, adding the privilege that comes with the right to vote.
“Each voter can make a difference by just being part of the political community,” Wohlers said. “Exercise a political right that does not exist or is undermined in many other countries.
“We should never take the right to vote as granted,” he said. “It is a civic responsibility and privilege.”