Time for voters to claim their right to complain

By Annie Piekarczyk

A Nov. 3 column by Annie Piekarczyk used a percentage comparison that was incorrect. The percentage of people that “forfeited their right to complain” should have been stated as 36 percent in order to be mathematically accurate. The Daily Illini regrets the error.

The following is the corrected version of the columm

By now, if you don’t know who you’re voting for, you must have been living under a rock for the past year, to say the least. Fortunately, that’s probably not the case – not for most University students, anyway.

Walk on the Quad and you’ll see who people are voting for. Just look at their t-shirts, their backpacks, their buttons, the booths they’re sitting by, or the flyers they’re handing out. A majority of the students on the Quad at any given time can tell you who they’re supporting in the blink of an eye. The national election may look close in the Gallup poll, but there’s no question about who’s going to win Illinois.

Whether people are voting for their particular candidate because of gender, race, or their candidate’s stance on issues, it unfortunately really doesn’t matter. They’re voting and their votes count, regardless of how educated they are about their candidate.

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Over the past year, people have finally been getting interested enough in this election to register to vote. The voter turnout at primaries and caucuses was at a record high, and now we see a huge population of people voting early. Apparently, patience is not a virtue voters have this election. It’s not one that we as voters can really afford. Our economy is down, the war in Iraq is going on, and our college loans are going up, up and away. So what do we do? We vote.

But rather than those issues being the only focus of the election, a lot of people choose to focus on gender and race. There’s no doubt that’s a lot of the reason so many people are voting this year. FOX said that more African American voters have registered to vote for this election than the years following the African American Civil Rights Movement in the 60s. That says a lot about the importance of this election, particularly the importance to African American voters.

However, I can only hope the majority of the support Obama is receiving is because of his ‘Change’ campaign as opposed to his race. The same goes for Palin. She has plenty of fans who simply support her because she’s a woman and a ‘soccer mom,’ or more appropriately, a hockey mom. It’s great that people are passionate about supporting their candidates, presidential or vice presidential, but that support shouldn’t be coming from uneducated voters who only support their candidate of choice because of gender or race.

Either way the election goes, history will be made. Either we will have the first African American president or the first female vice president. And you get a chance to be a part of that.

Since your vote counts, you should make it really count. You should know where your candidate stands on important issues, what his religious beliefs are, how that’s going to affect his decisions for our country, his connections, his past, and his plans for our future. No vote should be merely based on a candidate’s race or gender, especially not when there are bigger issues at hand such as the war in Iraq, our economy, and alternative energy.

But more problematic than uneducated voting is not voting at all. Don’t be a part of the American population who chooses not to vote, but loves to complain. There are countless people, who didn’t vote in the past election, who like to complain. In 2004, only 64% of Americans ages 18 and older voted. However, those 36% of Americans that didn’t vote forfeited their right to complain.

Don’t let that be you.

Maybe those 46% didn’t know enough about the candidates to actually vote. But today, that’s no excuse. There has been more than enough election coverage to get to know the candidates and their stances on certain issues.

Be educated about the candidates and vote. Claim your right to complain. Be a part of history. Tomorrow is the day.

Annie is a freshman in broadcast journalism and she has eaten at Jimmy John’s everyday for the past three days.