Rethink the vote

Tommy Dennen, Staff Writer

Santa Rosa Junior College is an institution of nearly 28,000 students currently taking a plethora of different majors. The college gives people of Sonoma County the opportunity to attain affordable associates degrees and certificates for trades, attend classes to transfer to a four-year university and much more. SRJC interacts with the surround in so many different ways, making education available and encouraging intellectual engagement in the community.

These days a huge majority of American adults have smartphones and use an array of apps to communicate with each other and stay connected to certain avenues of news. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat keep us informed from multiple angles, but none of which are similar to those of our parents and grandparents. Instead of primarily newspapers and television, our youth turn to the independent outlets like YouTube and Yahoo to be bombarded.

I get a lot of my news by scrolling through Facebook and Twitter, and headlines when I log on my yahoo email.” said Jamie Carlson, a SRJC sophomore.

For most SRJC students, that is consistently the case. Tuition is reasonably affordable but rent is not, so finding a balance between studying and working has most students driving from school-to-work-to-bed during the semester. Life seems to move faster every year; and with the advent of social media and the resulting reliance on connectivity our generation has acquired, it’s almost standard with this lifestyle to have less time to sit in front of a TV and more time checking our phones sporadically when we’re on the go.

There is of course different degrees to this, as a classmate who preferred to remain anonymous adds, “I crowd-source a less-biased understanding of current events by browsing Reddit, I feel like I’m able to see both sides more clearly and I’m able to engage in the conversation. I can share my views and even consider rebuttals to my perspective.”

Similarly, kinesiology major Jacob Pavsek said, “I follow a couple independent news outlets on YouTube that give super fast-paced updates for the day or week to get a feel of what people are talking about, whether it’s memes or politics”

Everybody loves memes. Jacob is not alone; regardless of which is our go-to app, the vast majority of Santa Rosa Junior College students could admit that the social aspects of mobile media keep us engaged, and interaction and affirmation from our peers is the reward that keeps us wanting more. A friend posts an inside joke or a relatable photo, you tap ‘like’ on your phone and instantaneously your friend receives a satisfying “bloop” on their phone to alert them.

How come the legal vehicle that operates our Democracy is so cringingly archaic in comparison? We can so easily voice our opinions both articulately and at length—and certain individuals only with blind, hapless rage—on Facebook, for all our family and friends to absorb, yet none of these circumstance and passion-fueled philosophies ever make it on the ballot consistently, or at all.

A political nonprofit called TurboVote is trying to change all that. Founded by two Harvard-Graduate government majors, the goal of this particular organization is to make voting easier and more approachable in a 21st century context. Creators Kathryn Peters and Seth Flaxman were alarmed and motivated by the release of 2012 Census Bureau statistics that revealed nearly 60 percent of those who did not vote reported that it was because of “processing issues”, not simply apathy or rebellious abstention.

As for the remaining 40 percent of nonvoters, 10 fell into a miscellaneous category, and the final 30 percent asserted that their abstention stemmed from feeling like “their vote didn’t matter” or they “hated all the candidates”.

Addressing apathy and political abstinence is a much bigger social issue, that would require a different, unrelated approach. How TurboVote intends to make a difference in voter turnout is to eliminate “processing issues”. With the ever-increasing volume of industries and general logistical enterprises that have either been improved or completely automated by computers, it gives hope to the goal that we can make automating the Presidential Election next on the ballot.

As of this year, there are students in elementary school that were born after the first iPhone was released; they only know a world where touch screens and high-speed internet are expected, and they know it well. You can pull a student out of any 1st grade American classroom and they’d be more efficient at navigating the settings of smartphone than someone four times their age. As this generation grows up and becomes eligible to participate in the election, TurboVote hopes to play to this new generation’s strengths: seamlessly and efficiently connecting and expressing themselves with technology and social media.

TurboVote is just one organization trying to blaze the path to reviving democracy. Ultimately, in order to reap the benefits of the advancements we’ve seen in social connectivity in the past decade—or by any other means—stimulate the next voting generation to be involved more than their predecessors, the solution lies in the hands of any of us here at the college: creative young minds that can contribute to the evolution of the electoral structure.