Vetoing voter apathy

This November’s gubernatorial election affects us more directly than the presidential election two Novembers ago. Whoever wins and is sworn in on Jan. 1 will have the final say on the amount of tuition we pay and the state aid that SUNY as a whole receives. But as a student body, we seem to be unaware of how important it really is.

Since Gov. David Paterson took office in March 2008, we have been witness to his decisions regarding SUNY. Remember the tuition increase that happened almost two years ago? It was Paterson who made the decision to cut state aid to SUNY, causing our tuition to increase. And it is Paterson who continually looks to SUNY for revenue while cutting our programs and limiting our opportunities.

Our "Vox Pop" section this week, along with last week’s story about registering students to vote on campus, has proved that voter apathy is alive and well at Oswego State. Students casually admit that they are not informed and that they are unaware of what elections are taking place. This concerns us at The Oswegonian.

Since our earliest years in school, we have been told how important it is to vote. We do not need to reiterate it here. We also do not need to include how to register to vote—Oswego State has already done a good job of that by providing voter registration forms at resident halls and setting up tables in the Campus Center. The signs have been put up, the ads are out there, but the students aren’t coming. Why?

The most common excuse is the lack of time: people are too busy to read a newspaper or check the news online. Students are overwhelmed with classes and work. The last thing they want to do during the day is read about politics. Yet, not voting is a pretty heavy responsibility to shirk, and for what, to preserve your everyday sense of business? Is there really nothing else you could eliminate from your supposedly-jam-packed schedule so that you could exercise your civic rights and responsibilities?

People may also feel that their vote doesn’t count, so what’s the point?

But ignoring the process does not make our votes count any more. When we abdicate our role in civic life to corporations and ideological extremists, what we get is polar politics and Starbucks democracy. These interests will gladly fill the void left as we turn our heads from the public sphere and leave democracy to work itself out. It never does because our gift from the Greeks is a delicate bird to be closely guarded. When we fall into the temptation of apathy it is as if we leave the door to the chicken coup wide open.

Foxes will get in.

Being apathetic about voting doesn’t make someone a bad person, but it does make them negligent. It’s important to know about the people who are in charge and the decisions they make. It’s also important to understand what kind of impact they have on day-to-day life in New York. Whichever candidate is elected governor could change everything from traffic laws to property taxes.

We at The Oswegonian realize that we cannot make the student body care about the gubernatorial election. We cannot force them to become better informed or to read about the issues that may impact their lives. We cannot lead students to voting machines and force them to cast a vote (and we wouldn’t want to). But we can ask students to reconsider their choice not to vote and not to care. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to become informed and it takes even less time to register and vote.

So here’s your call to action, Oswego State. Go online, or to a newspaper if you can, and read a story about the candidates vying for your vote. See what they have to say about higher education. And when Election Day comes around, cast your vote.