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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Gator Party's domination of Student Senate seats made me wonder about the 2008 election.

What was the cause of yet another political landslide: a silent majority failing to vote, or the collective approval of students across the land? In the 2004 presidential election, people aged 18 to 24 had the lowest registration rate of all adults allowed to vote, a mere 58 percent. Even more shocking, less than half of all registered students showed up to vote. The oldest voters had the highest turnout and voting rates. But if one vote does not make or break an election, why visit the polls?

Many college students are the children of baby boomers, those aged 43 to 61. The more we grow up, get the degree and settle down, the more our voices make an impact on national politics. A smaller group of Republicans can make their voice heard over young liberals merely by going to the polls more often. If that fact becomes reality, Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani might have the presidency to himself.

If young adults want to express their voices, the simplest solution is to vote. Unlike last Monday's Taser debacle, this act of free speech will not get you restrained. As it stands, a vote is the American's most basic, cherished right.

Consider George Orwell's book, "1984," where exactly the opposite happens. In that world, no one gets a vote; no one has power to change the government. The government has a vice grip on power - even the very act of thinking against Big Brother is a crime. From birth, children are brainwashed into serving the government. History is rewritten so often that people are fooled into believing whatever their superiors tell them.

While missing out on one vote in one year will not lead to the aforementioned nightmare, take neither the right to vote nor its significance for granted. Too many soldiers have died in too many wars over too many years for those who don't have to fight to waste their influence. If you want a particular candidate in office even more, encourage others to vote in his or her direction. You may even want to join the campaign trail to some degree. Even if there are not votes available for topics you feel are important, don't fret. Turlington Plaza is a "free-speech zone" for a reason. Use whatever platform you can to discuss issues that are important.

UF does not need to become another Berkeley, a school fond of protests and picket signs. In fact, it has a history of low-key political activism. However, a place like this, with 50,000 voices gathered as one, can and should make its voice heard on important issues. There are too many people with too much education not to make speaking out a priority.

George W. Bush will leave office in less than 18 months. If you want to express your like or dislike of all the things that he has done over the past six years, you have a prime chance come November 2008.

If you do not vote, it's your loss or gain on what matters to you. But don't feel justified to speak out if you don't vote and your candidate doesn't win.

Vincent Gagliano is a sophomore majoring in physics. His column appears on Wednesdays.

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