Staying on election’s sidelines

Shanika Gunaratna

Lost in the division between red states and blue states, Obama and McCain, is a more fundamental distinction: Those who vote and those who do not.

Weinberg sophomore Nicholas Cizek is one of millions of eligible voters who will not be pulling a lever or mailing a ballot on Election Day.

Cizek said he believes voting is not worth the effort, since his single vote will not tip the scale in any one direction.

“I will kill myself if a president ever wins or loses an election by one vote,” he said. “Until that happens, I’m going to be happy I didn’t waste my time voting.”

Cizek, from the swing state of Ohio, registered to “appease” his girlfriend. Though he is not planning to vote, Cizek said he still pays close attention to election coverage and has been watching the debates.

“Maybe one day I’ll change my mind,” he said. “(But) I feel like I’m actually doing the earth a favor not wasting the gas money to vote when one vote never matters.”

If this year’s election follows past patterns, Cizek will join about a third of eligible voters in sitting out on Nov. 4. During the last presidential election in 2004, 36 percent of voting-age citizens did not vote. But the numbers were higher among young voters: 53 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds did not participate.

People choose not to vote for different reasons, said Medill professor Jack Doppelt, author of “Nonvoters: America’s No Shows.” Some are reluctant to be called for jury duty. Others aren’t educated about their state’s voting laws, among other reasons, Doppelt said.

Some voters are turned off by the logistics of voting.

Weinberg freshman Leo Zhu “didn’t want to go through absentee ballot registration” for his home state of California, he said.

“My state’s a blue state, so there’s no point,” said Zhu, who would vote as a Democrat.

Other nonvoters feel disenchanted by the shallow political rhetoric of a general election, Doppelt said. Obama and McCain sounded like they were repeating themselves during Tuesday’s debate, he said.

“Even in an election like this one, where we all assume that McCain and Obama have got people galvanized, if you look at the duration of this campaign and how long it is, people get bored, ” Doppelt said.

There are also those aren’t bored, he said, just angered as they watch the election and campaigns unfold.

“There are all kinds of reasons to be angry at the process,” Doppelt said.

Dennis Surdeski, a utility worker at the 1835 Hinman dining hall, said he is one of these disaffected voters. Surdeski, 68, said he has voted in every election since John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960. This year, he said he’s deeply concerned about the faltering economy.

Still, he’s choosing not to vote, a decision he calls “more personal than anything.”

“Look at the first president I voted for,” Suderski said. “Look what happened to him. I don’t want to vote for another president and have him get killed. I don’t want to be part of it any more.”

Surdeski believes Obama’s mantra of change will prove impossible to implement, given the current culture in Washington.

“My trepidation is that if he does want to do the job right, he’s going to step on people’s toes that will not stand it,” he said.

Suderski said that he is “probably not” going to cast a vote ever again.

“I’m going to leave that to the young people, the youth,” he said.

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